Nearly 5 years after UBB, tough steps paying off

An editorial from The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Since 29 miners died April 5, 2010, in the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, federal safety officials say the coal industry is on pace for an all-time low in work-related deaths.

It is our fervent hope that continues to be true.

Stories in Monday’s and today’s Register-Herald quoted U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Joe Main as saying it appears there is a cultural change in the mining industry that is for the better. As of today, there had been 15 mine-related deaths; the previous low was 18 in 2009.

Main said he believes there are several factors to which the lower numbers can be attributed: blitz inspections of mines with Patterns of Violations (POV); miners who are better educated about their rights to report their safety concerns; and, unfortunately, fewer numbers of workers mining coal.

We’ve always known how dangerous it is to mine coal. The numbers of miners killed in the 20th century totaled in the hundreds. After the Farmington No. 9 explosion in 1968 brought about the Coal Mine Safety Act, the tide did turn somewhat. But as the years passed, many became complacent or put the want for profit above the lives of miners.

The 2010 loss of 29 men at UBB jolted everyone into awareness.

Corners were being cut in mining — and not just in coal mines. Shortly after UBB, a list of mines with patterns of violations numbered 51, with 42 of those coal mines. This year, the list had dwindled to 12, six of them coal mines.

It is a shame that it took the loss of so many lives to make the coal industry clean up its act…

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