Coal Mines Close for Safety Inspections

Coal Mines Close for Safety Inspections

At the request of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, all coalmines have been temporarily closed in the state to bring in safety inspection crews and teach mine safety to workers.  This measure takes place after the deaths of sixteen West Virginia coalminers within the last month.  This is the deadliest year in the state’s coalmines in over a decade. 

During this “time-out”, at least 6,000 coalminers in West Virginia and other states participated in discussions about mine safety at the start of their work shifts, while officials were inspecting the mines for safety. 

“This is a small industry,” said Consol Energy spokesperson Thomas Hoffman, “When an accident happens, everybody knows about it.  It’s a good time to talk about it.”

Massey Energy, the largest coal producer in West Virginia (the nation’s second largest coal producer behind Wyoming), reports that its safety talks focused on escape routes, the use of emergency air packs, and firefighting.  The miners were also asked to do safety checks on their gear and work areas.  Three of this year’s coal mining deaths have occurred to employees with Massey subsidiaries. 

While West Virginia coalmines are supposed to be checked every three months, Governor Manchin asked the mine safety office to speed up checks at the state’s 544 mines. 

The inspectors have been slated to begin safety inspections at facilities with higher-than-average injury, accident, and violation rates.  Officials are looking for safety concerns involving escape routes, logs, and conveyor belts.  Every inspection will take a few days to a few weeks. 

In addition to the governor, federal officials also asked coalmines across the nation to briefly cease production during a “Stand Down for Safety.”  One-hundred-thirteen experts from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration will be on-hand in West Virginia to help facilitate safety inspections.  Another 100 federal officials are also being sent.

“If these tragedies continue, mines could be closed and coal and energy production could falter…the consequences could ripple throughout the nation’s economy,” notes Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia, “We cannot delay.” 



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