House Bill 207 was idled on two occasions through the legislative process, but was given new life thanks to widows of miners who lobbied for it, according to an Associated Press report late last week. Fletcher signed the Bill on Friday.
State representative Brent Yonts, who sponsored the Bill, told the media he had doubts regarding its passage but called the positive outcome “a moral victory for the working person”
“I think the issue received so much attention from the public and the press that light was focused on the need for it,” Yonts said.
Under the new Bill, at least one member of every underground crew must don a methane detector, and any miner working alone would also be expected to carry one.
Additionally, inspectors from the state’s Office of Mine Safety and Licensing will be required to visit all mines a minimum of six times annually. Two of those visits, according to the news service, must encompass a special focus on the mine’s internal electrical infrastructure.
All mines statewide will also be required to staff two emergency medical technicians per shift, and no retreat mining may take place without a 48-hour notice to state officials. Ventilation fans must always be operating, and a personnel carrier must be kept in active sections for crews to surface quickly in an emergency.
“This Bill may not achieve the ultimate goal of preventing all injuries and future deaths, but it will go a long way toward satisfying the governmental obligation of safety in the workplace," Yonts told the AP.
Fletcher himself was happy with the result of the legislation, which also allows for the hiring of as many as 15 more state mine specialists.
“I want to commend not only the General Assembly for its work, but also the efforts of the families of mine accident victims who were instrumental in the passage of the Bill,” Fletcher said.