West Virginia and Kentucky Coal Miner’s Safety Protection Demand
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West Virginia and Kentucky Coal Miner’s
Safety Protection Demand
Of all the federal agencies created by Congress, one of the true success stories is the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which grew out of a bipartisan effort in 1977.
Most observers in coal country consider MSHA a hard-charging, effective little outfit. When federal safety inspectors show up at mines, the operators understand they'd best be ready or they're going to get shut down or fined or both. Moreover, whistle-blowing coal miners know the agency has a track record of keeping complaints anonymous and acting on them. The tough standards implemented by MSHA inspectors have saved lives, lots of them, but they're not the only inspectors around. The states also field mine inspectors to poke into areas that MSHA may miss.
From hundreds of deaths in coal mines annually just a few decades ago, there were nine in 2016. This is still too many, but obviously, progress has been made. Some of the decrease is due to the cutback in mining overall, but more is the product of inspections.
Now comes the rather shocking word that legislators in West Virginia and Kentucky want to reduce the number of state mine inspections or eliminate them altogether (West Virginia). The implied reason for this is that MSHA can take care of things, there's too much duplication, and the states can save money by bowing out. These are foolish ideas.
When legislators do something that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, there’s always the suspicion that they're in somebody's pocket. It's possible that this idea of eliminating state mine inspections was thought up by mine owners and carried forward by overly friendly pols — we don’t know. But what we can definitely say is that if there's ever a reason for redundancy, it's to keep people safe.
Therefore, Americans for Miners demands that West Virginia and Kentucky do the right thing and drop their bills and let both state and federal inspectors do their jobs. Additionally, auditing of State inspectors should be done to assure no corruption, i.e. hiding of problems from inspectors when the mining company knows they are coming. If politicians want to save money, that's fine. They can look for all the wasteful spending they want, but not where the lives of coal miners are involved.
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