Keeping Mines Safe During ‘Shutdown’
It is unlikely any of the three men killed in coal mining accidents during the past few days would have escaped injury had more federal mine inspectors been on the job. Still, the fatalities are a reminder of how dangerous mining can be – and of the importance of inspectors.
As a result of the government “shutdown,” most of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s inspectors have been idled. MSHA officials say they have only enough inspectors to check on mines with histories of many problems.
While most MSHA inspectors were off the job during a three-day period last week, three miners – one each day – perished in accidents. One of them was a local man killed at a Consolidation Coal Co. mine in Marshall County. In the second accident, an Illinois miner died when the golf cart he was driving flipped over and pinned him underneath. The third death was in Wyoming, where a bulldozer driver at a surface mine went over a 150-foot highwall.
Again, it is unlikely keeping all MSHA inspectors on the job would have had any effect on the situations in which the three fatalities occurred.
But President Barack Obama and officials at workplace safety agencies such as MSHA should reconsider the number of inspectors deemed “non-essential” during the shutdown. Clearly, failure to make regular inspections at workplaces such as coal mines places tens of thousands of men and women in danger needlessly. If the shutdown drags on, some of the inspectors should be called back to work.