Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon calling for a mine safety stand-down in West Virginia.
Tomblin said it’s time to pause and concentrate on safety.
“In the past two and a half months there have been six fatal mining accidents in West Virginia, including four in just the past two weeks,” said Tomblin. “This is tragic.”
Gov. Tomblin signed an executive order and explained his decision during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the state capitol.
Coal operators will stop production for at least one-hour during a 24-hour period beginning Wednesday afternoon to re-stress safety. The state Mine Safety Office will also be sending inspectors to the various operations.
“I have authorized all our inspection staff, safety instructors, surface inspectors, electrical inspectors and supervisors to begin going to all the coal mines in the state,” said State Mine Safety Director Eugene White.
During the one hour stoppage at each mine site, those with the state Mine Safety Office will conduct safety talks with employees and conduct inspections.
“They’re talking about best practices, communications, we are also going to discuss with the miners that we do have an anonymous safety tip line,” said White.
West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton said many companies have already been conducting safety meetings with employees over the weekend.
The latest mining accident came Tuesday night when John Miles, 44, of Hilltop was killed after being hit by a scoop at the Affinity Mine in Raleigh County. A miner from Bluefield, Va. was killed at the same mine on Feb. 7.
Tomblin said mine safety is a priority.
“We’re working statewide with industry officials in making sure we’re taking all necessary precautions.
United Mine Workers Union rep Mike Caputo believes the one hour stand down is a good start, but insists more needs to be done.
“We need to practice safety meetings as much as necessary,” said Caputo. “This has got to stop.”
Both the West Virginia Coal Association and United Mine Workers Union say they support Tomblin’s decision.