JUST looking at this miner working underground at an Alabama mine circa 1936 makes the backs and necks of workers everywhere twinge in pain.
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Click on the image to enlarge. Courtesy MSHA.

Donna Schmidt

Published in the March 2008 Coal USA Magazine

When not thinking about the feeling of contorting the body into such a small space for an entire shift, an outsider might also be reeling at other images – such as the timbers holding taut the fragile roof, and the worker removing some of those wooden pillars as mining advances.

The reality is that active seam heights aren't very far from this scene, and as time goes on they are becoming more prevalent. Thankfully, lots of factors from within this frame have changed, as great strides have been made in roof control – from longwall shields to cribbing and cans, to resin and bolts and other stability aids.

While it is no consolation to know that roof bolters or shields would be hard pressed to fit into such small spaces, it is important to remember that the road to where we are has been paved with the experiences of many other miners just like this one, allowing us to study the challenges of his everyday work.

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

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