THE road to zero incidents in coal mining has been paved with many tragic explosions, roof falls, fires and other occurrences, such as is depicted in this photo circa 1950. The debris from a highwall collapsed and strewn across this mine’s portals is a stark reminder of both the progress that has been made as well as the long way the industry still has to go.
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Click on the picture to enlarge.

Donna Schmidt

Published in the May 2008 Coal USA Magazine


Every injury and every death is one too many – and the impact such events have on workers’ friends and family members continue to scar, even generations later. The news that the industry is getting safer is no alleviation to the pain of both yesterday and today’s fathers, mothers, siblings and friends.


An accident now would differ from this scene in countless ways – involved staff, for instance, would be kept to a core team while all others would be sent away to await instruction. Modern regulations would prohibit more than just a few to be near the scene in case of secondary events, and those working would be under the strong watch of federal regulators.


While any mine rescue team member or emergency responder will tell you that their assumed risk at every mine emergency scene does not outweigh the chance he or she will be able to locate and save the life of a comrade, it is these very same industry regulations that have kept many more from hazard’s reach.


Photo courtesy United States Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) National Mine Health and Safety Academy Technical Information Center & Library, Bureau of Mines Collection