WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (1/9/13) - 2012 was a safe year for coal miners, both nationally and locally. In Webster County, Sebree Mining LLC and Dotiki Mine were both honored this year for safe work records, and nationwide the number of fatalities was the second lowest of all times.
While no one can argue that coal mining isn’t without risks, and the number of fatalities reflect this, statistic also show that the industry is becoming safer as Mine Health and Safety Administration (MSHA), the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing (OMSL) and the mine operators strive the improve conditions.
Data released by the MSHA show that there were half as many deaths in Kentucky mines in 2012 as there were in 2011. Although the four deaths in 2012 made it the second lowest death total in the state’s history, it was still the second worst total in the nation. West Virginia topped that list with seven.
Nationally there were 19 coal related fatalities in 2012. That number might be higher than in some industries, but when you consider that in 1907, the worst year in coal mining history, there were 3,242 coal mining fatalities the number is pretty amazing. Ten years earlier 2002, there were 28. Twenty years ago that number was 55, and ten years before that, in 1982, there were 122 coal mining fatalities.
“We’ve made enormous strides in protecting the health and welfare of our miners over the generations,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stated in a December press release. “But the tragic explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010 that killed 29 miners is a sober reminder that there is more work to be done, and we cannot rest until every mining company is in full compliance with industry health and safety laws.”
In fact, the number of fatalities in coal mining have been steadily decreasing since the formation of MSHA in 1978.
“At the Labor Department, we honor our miners every day by making sure they have a safe place to work,” Solis continued. “No workers should have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihoods, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration has made great progress in creating safer workplaces for miners across this country.”
Following the April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, MSHA started special monthly impact inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns.
“We continue to identify operators who have not gotten the message,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Exposure to harmful levels of respirable dust is unacceptable. Not conducting adequate examinations is unacceptable. Miners deserve better.”
None of the mines in Webster County were subject to the most recent impact inspections.
In October the Dotiki prep plant near Lisman was honored for working over one million man-hours during an 11 year period with no lost time accidents.
“This is living proof that a safe operation is a productive operation,” stated Kenny Murray, Vice President of Operations for Alliance Coal. “We feel like the coal industry is safer than ever and this record certainly is proof of that.”
In December the Onton #9 Coal Processing Plant (Sebree Mining LLC) was honored for their outstanding safety record. The Certificate of Achievement in Safety Award was presented to Sebree Mining at the Green River Safety Council Meeting held at Moonlight BBQ in Owensboro.
Jim Langley, U.S. Department of Labor (MSHA) District 10 Manager presented the award to Paul Moore, Surface Manager at Onton #9 Mine.
To qualify for The Achievement in Safety Award, a company must compile at least 30,000 employee work-hours during the year without a lost time injury or fatality.
Onton #9, Sebree Mining, LLC was considered part of the Large Coal Processing Facility Group, logging 87,341 employee hours worked without a lost workday injury.
This award is considered the most prestigious award in the mining industry “as well as the oldest established award for occupational safety”. The Sentinels of Safety competition was created in 1925 by then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. A former mining engineer, Hoover realized the critical need for improving mine safety at a time when thousands of miners were injured or killed in job-related accidents each year. The award has continued uninterrupted to this day.
J-E News Editor
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