Virginia celebrating fatality-free record

VIRGINIA has marked a feat many other coal-rich states continually strive for but have yet to accomplish - three consecutive years without a coal mining-related fatality.
Virginia celebrating fatality-free record Virginia celebrating fatality-free record Virginia celebrating fatality-free record Virginia celebrating fatality-free record Virginia celebrating fatality-free record

A coal operation in Virginia. Courtesy Massey Energy.

Donna Schmidt

Ranked as the number 10 producer of coal by the US Energy Information Administration, the state recorded its last coal death on October 23, 2004.

State Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy spokesman Mike Abbott told the Associated Press that the record may be due in part to more stringent state mine safety laws enacted in 2007, which includes stronger substance abuse regulations.

In fact, the DMME reported in October that Ezra Rogers, 28, a worker found guilty of taking smoking materials into an underground coal mine in 2006, was sentenced to two years in the Virginia State Penitentiary in the form of five years in prison with three years suspended in lieu of supervised probation during the period.

"DMME wants miners to know that such violations, including the use of controlled substances or alcohol at Virginia coal mines, will be aggressively prosecuted," agency division of mines chief Frank Linkous said at the time.

"Substance abuse has reached near epidemic proportions in our society, and the introduction of such behaviour into the mining workplace significantly raises the risk of accidents, injuries and fatalities."

The state rules made effective last July include a requirement for workers to take substance abuse tests if a state inspector has reason to believe he or she is impaired - whether or not an incident has occurred.

Additionally, each Virginia mine now must have a written substance abuse policy and program; and pre-employment testing will include no less than an 11-panel urine test for all workers.

There were 32 coal mining-related deaths in the US in 2007, according to US Mine Safety and Health Administration statistics. Of those, 18 occurred underground and 14 were at surface operations.

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