Dec. 6th is National Miners Day, which is held every year to increase safety awareness for high-risk industries like mining. The observance was first established in 2009 to remember miners who have been passed away on the job. Like all employees, miners are entitled to safe work environments, and this important observance highlights ways to achieve this goal.
Before it became a national observance, in 1907, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) started National Miners Day to honor workers who were killed in a serious mining accident that year. Over 360 miners perished in two West Virginia mines that year due to a serious explosion. Before 1907, other mining disasters killed tens of thousands of miners.
The mining tragedies of the early 20th century paved the way for the creation of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1910. This organization conducts research that enhances the health and safety of miners. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is another important agency that works to eliminate mining-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
As of 2022, there are over 62,000 employed in the coal mining industry, according to IBISWorld’s Coal Mining in the U.S. Industry Report. Mining companies and safety organizations commemorate National Miners Day by focusing on training and awareness for their employees and the public.
What Risks Do Miners Face?
Explosions are not the only significant risk that miners face. Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease, is often seen in people who have been exposed to coal dust for long periods of time. Although modern technology has decreased the number of mining explosions over the years, thousands of people still die each year from black lung disease.
Coal dust exposure can also cause other obstructive lung diseases, like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. While smoking cigarettes has not been shown to increase the likelihood of developing black lung disease, it can worsen the damage and possibly lead to COPD. Non-smoking coal workers have a much lower risk of getting COPD than coal workers who smoke.
Another health problem that impacts miners is whole-body vibration (WBV). This can happen when miners sit on heavy machinery like jumbo operators that are working on uneven surfaces. The signs of WBV include cardiovascular changes, digestive problems, vision impairment, and painful musculoskeletal disorders.
Heat stress is also possible in the mining industry, especially in hot and humid work environments. The symptoms of heat stress include fatigue, distress, and heat stroke. This can happen in open and closed pits, but UV stress is from exposure to sunlight. Excess UV radiation puts workers at a higher risk for skin cancer as well as eye damage, nausea, headaches, and dehydration.
Heavy machinery and drilling produce constant noise that can lead to significant hearing damage in miners. Even when employees get used to the sounds, damage can still happen. In many cases, the hearing loss is not noticed until it is too late.
Miners who do a lot of heavy lifting and repetitive work can also suffer from musculoskeletal disorders that affect their muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones. These medical problems can be caused by slip and falls and other accidents.
Preventing Accidents in the Mining Industry
The NIOSH Mining Program’s research includes:
- Preventing explosions and fires.
- Improving mechanical and electrical safety.
- Monitoring and limiting toxic substances and dust.
- Analyzing ground control and ventilation.
- Avoiding slip and falls and musculoskeletal disorders.
- Worker inexperience and fatigue.
- Reducing glare and improving illumination.
Facility inspections help reduce mining accidents. Citations can be issued for violations, and miners and equipment can be withdrawn until the hazardous situations are corrected. All workplace accidents, complaints of hazardous conditions, and violations should also be investigated by governing authorities.
The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 provided needed funding for state health and safety training programs, with grants provided by the MSHA. Mining operation training programs and health and safety conferences are critical for this industry, as is proper oversight. Mining plans need to be reviewed, as do a company’s ventilation, training plans, roof control, and emergency response protocols. Instructors also need to be trained and certified to direct safety programs.
Health Screenings for Miners
In the U.S., coal miners are required to complete free medical exams before they begin working in the industry and three years afterward. Miners who continue working in the field should be offered the same exam every five years following the initial screening. There is no cost for coal miners to take the examinations, which take place at NIOSH-approved medical facilities or jobsites.
These basic examinations include blood pressure screenings, chest X-rays, and lung function tests. The health care professional administering the exam will also record the miner’s work history and perform a respiratory health assessment.
Additionally, miners who are injured on the job are entitled to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Those who need help with a claim can seek legal guidance from a lawyer.
Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Represent Sick and Injured Miners
High-risk professions like mining put employees in danger. If you have a job-related illness or injury from work, contact one of our skilled Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow. Call us at (302) 427-9500 or complete our online form today to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Wilmington, Bear, Milford, and Lewes, Delaware. With offices in all three counties of Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state.