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Safety initiatives critical for well-being of miners

Jan. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The nation's coal mining industry came within one death in 2012 matching its record low in miner fatalities during a year, but that's little consolation to the families of those who died. Nineteen miners were killed on the job in U.S. coal mines last year, still too many and a signal that more should be done to improve safety in the nation's coal mines.

West Virginia and Kentucky were at the top of the list for fatalities, with seven of the deaths occurring in the Mountain State and four recorded in Kentucky. West Virginia has led the nation in coal-mining fatalities in five of the last dozen years, while Kentucky has had the most deadly count six times during that period. It's not a leadership tradition that either state can boast about.

That's why it's important for all coal miners, particularly those in this region, that initiatives to improve safety in the nation's coal mines move forward.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is on track to complete several mine safety initiatives this year. Among them are rules that would require proximity detection devices that shut down certain mining equipment when workers get too close. MSHA also is due to finalize how it will handle increased enforcement at mining operations that exhibit patterns of violations, an issue that gained widespread attention after 29 miners died in 2010 at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

Another proposed rule is intended to reduce black lung, a disease that is once again becoming more common after earlier efforts to combat it had made considerable progress.

The nation's coal miners perform a critical function, extracting from the earth an energy source that is vital to the country's well-being. It's the least we can do to make their jobs as safe as possible.

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