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Coal mining deaths: Feds say new workers most at risk

According to federal safety officials, U.S. coal mining fatalities have increased substantially compared to last year's figures. Furthermore, officials say that the newer the worker, the more vulnerable he or she will be to getting into a fatal accident.

However, the coal miner's union says that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration isn't doing enough to keep miners safe. Ten coal miners have already died this year in comparison to last year's record low of eight deaths.

In response to the uptick the Mine Safety and Health Administration has launched a summer initiative to send officials out to investigate mining safety matters and train workers who are new to a mine. Training will include courses on appropriate safety habits to prevent injuries and accidents. Part of the reason for improved safety conditions is a push from the White House to have less stringent safety regulations. The safety administration wants to ensure that miners are well-trained before these potential changes are implemented.

According to the United Mine Workers of America union, however, the summer safety push falls short of doing what needs to be done. Most significantly, the UMWA has pointed out that the safety administrators and federal inspectors are not permitted to punish mines that have safety violations.

The UMWA says the agency initiative falls short. It notes federal inspectors who conduct such training visits are barred from punishing the mine if they spot any safety violations. The union president said, "To take away the inspector's right to issue a violation takes away the one and only enforcement power the inspector and the agency has."

Mine workers injured on the job will be -- at the very least -- eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits in many cases. These benefits will help workers pay for medical care and lost income as a result of time spent unable to work.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle, "Union, feds at odds on countering surge in coal mine deaths," Dylan Lovan, Aug. 06, 2017

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