The coal mining industry in West Virginia has seen its share of struggles, from environmental concerns to political game playing. Perhaps the most difficult and personal struggle you or any employee of the mining industry faces is the risk of injury and death from the dangerous work you do.
Mining, whether minerals or metals, consistently ranks among the most dangerous jobs to have, no matter how advanced the technology in use. However, underground coal mining exposes you to many life-threatening hazards. Worldwide, hundreds of miners die daily from accidents on the job. About 70 fatal mining accidents occur in the U.S. each year.
Are you at risk of injury?
Working underground in any industry has its risks. Coal miners face the presence of highly combustible methane that mining releases from layers of coal. Combined with coal dust and the use of underground explosives, methane places you at risk of injury in an explosion and subsequent entrapment if a cave-in results. Methane explosions that ignite coal dust account for the deadliest mining accidents in world history, totaling thousands of deaths over the decades.
You probably do not need to be told that the use of explosives to break through rocks is inherently dangerous. Misuse or carelessness handling explosives may result in injury or death from related hazards, for example:
- Flying rocks may strike you during an explosion.
- Poisonous fumes from the explosion may overcome you.
- A premature blast may catch you off guard, preventing you from moving away from the danger.
- A charge may misfire during other stages of the mining process, resulting in potentially fatal injuries.
- Blasting often creates instability on the earth's surface or underground, placing you at risk of shifts that lead to mine collapses and flooding of tunnels.
Of course, these injuries do not take into account the many illnesses related to working underground. Your employer is responsible for providing you with the training and safety equipment you need to minimize the chances that you will suffer harm in the course of your duties.
While you may be able to claim benefits through your employer's insurance, you would benefit from exploring all of your options. For example, if your injury resulted from your employer's negligence or recklessness, you may have cause to take a personal injury claim to civil courts. A West Virginia attorney can answer your questions and guide you in the best direction for your circumstances.