The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health says deaths in coal mines should not be happening in 2013.
“These just shouldn’t be occurring,” Kevin Stricklin told MetroNews on Thursday of the six on the job accidents in mines, so far, this year. “Fatalities do not have to occur in the mining industry in today’s age.”
Four of those deadly accidents have been at West Virginia coal mine sites.
And, Stricklin notes, the death toll could be even larger with ten months still to go in the year.
“What goes unnoticed is the number of close calls that I’m aware of that could very easily have been additional fatalities. We have a couple of people in very serious conditions. We have someone who may be paralyzed from the waist down,” Stricklin said.
“We could have very easily had three or four more fatalities to (add to) these six that occurred in the past 25 days.”
Stricklin says it’s frustrating because there is no one thread linking all of the mine accidents, no one thing that can be fixed to address every problem. He says all of the accidents were preventable, but their causes were different.
“There’s ways around every one of them — training, better job task analysis, doing your job more safely, someone making a better examination,” he said.
Calling the number of recent deaths in coal mines a “disturbing” trend, Stricklin’s boss, U.S. Labor Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main, has instructed inspectors, supervisors and managers with MSHA to meet personally with coal miners, in West Virginia and across the country, to reemphasize safety procedures.
Those meetings were scheduled for all three shifts, starting on Thursday, to raise safety awareness.
“The deaths of six miners over the last month are completely unacceptable to the mining community and to MSHA,” Main said in a letter issued earlier this week. “MSHA intends to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that all miners remain safe and healthy in America’s mining workplaces.”
Stricklin says safety vigilance is an every minute of every hour of every day requirement in coal mines.
“When you or I get in a car, we can’t take any time off from focusing on driving a car,” he said. “It’s the same thing in the mining industry. You can’t take any time off from the safety things that you need to do with your job.”
On Wednesday, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed an Executive Order which called on mine operators in West Virginia to halt production for one hour, during a 24 hour time period, to reemphasize safety requirements.