Labor union shares concerns about ‘outrageous’ West Virginia mining bill
Triangle, VA — United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts recently called proposed legislation that would reduce the scope of mine safety inspections in West Virginia and amend the state’s underground ventilation laws “one of the most outrageous attempts to slash critical protections for miners’ safety and health on the job that I have ever seen.”
Introduced Feb. 6 in the West Virginia House of Delegates, H.B. 2875 seeks to revise several state mining laws. Under the legislation, inspectors who find violations during any of their three annual compliance assistance visits to underground mines “may not, except for imminent danger withdrawal orders, issue any notices of violations or citations.” Instead, inspectors would complete a Job Safety Analysis and give a copy of the report to the miner at the end of his or her shift while sharing it with the mine operator.
Roberts voiced concerns over numerous other aspects of the bill in a Feb. 11 press release, including provisions to:
- No longer permit a miner representative to accompany an inspector during his or her inspection.
- Alter requirements for ventilation of mines and ventilation plans. The bill would allow a mine operator to obtain an approved ventilation plan from the Mine Safety and Health Administration rather than submitting his or her own detailed plan for review.
- Reduce to 45 from 120 the amount of days apprentice miners must work under the supervision of experienced miners upon beginning work.
According to MSHA data, West Virginia experienced four coal mining fatalities in 2018 and eight in 2017.
“Now is not the time for the state to even be considering reducing safety enforcement and putting new miners in needless danger,” Roberts said in the release. “West Virginia lawmakers can make improvements to the state’s health and safety laws without acting as mere puppets for the industry.”
At press time, the House had not voted on the bill.