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Winter Risk for Miners in the Northeast

The “Winter Alert” campaign is in full effect, according to the U.S. Department of Labor‘s Mine Safety and Health Administration. This campaign works to warn coal mine operators and miners of the risks and hazards that accompany winter weather. According to the latest statistics, we most commonly see deadly mine explosions from the months of October through March. These incidents are much more likely during cold periods than during warmer periods.
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“Operators of underground coal mines need to be fully aware of the precautions they can take to avoid tragic accidents at their mine sites,” said the assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, Joseph A. Main.

Our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers understand that during winter months, huge decreases in barometric pressure allow potentially explosive methane to move from remote areas to working areas of an underground coal mine. These conditions increase the risks that methane could mix with an ignition source and an explosion could occur. As a matter of fact, more than 100 miners have been killed in mine explosions over the last 20 years.

As if this wasn’t enough, winter makes walkways slippery, provides workers with limited visibility during harsh weather and freezes and thaws highwalls.

But there are things that workers and employers can do to help to eliminate these risks. First and foremost, officials with MSHA will be conducting regular inspections and will be working to educate miners about safe working practices.

In addition to this, workers and employers should also:

-Conduct inspections frequently to check for methane gas buildup. Check before each and every shift and frequently in between.

-Keep ignition sources out of work areas at all times.

-Make sure all work areas are well-ventilated. Ample ventilation in all unsealed areas of a mine is the first line of defense against an explosion.

-Even with appropriate engineering controls installed, miners must wear respirators in work areas where levels of methane are high.

-Employees must be provided with emergency equipment like self-generating oxygen devices.

-Never allow employees to smoke in or around mines. No flames should be allowed in these areas.

-Make sure that all dust collectors and water sprays are properly maintained.

So far in 2013, there have been close to 35 mining fatalities across the U.S. We’ve nearly exceeded last year’s numbers already, and we’re entering the most dangerous time of the year for the industry, so it’s time we listen up, pay attention and play it safe.

And all of this information is especially important to coal miners. Coal mining is part of the Mining sector along with other mining and extractive industries such as oil and gas. The rate of fatal injuries in the coal mining industry in 2007 was 24.8 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, nearly six times the rate for all private industry.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.

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