Three Coal Mining Deaths Since Shutdown Concern UMW, MSHA

One occurred in West Virginia, another in Illinois, and the third in Wyoming, the Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward Jr. reported.

Three coal miners have died in workplace accidents in the United States since the federal government shutdown began Oct. 1, with leaders of both the United Mine Workers of America and the Mine Safety and Health Administration expressing concern. MSHA's website is not currently being regularly maintained, so it shows the total for coal miner fatalities this year as 14, but the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette's Ken Ward Jr. reports the three October deaths have raised the number to 17.

UWM International President Cecil E. Roberts issued a statement Oct. 8 about the latest incidents:

"The hearts and prayers of every UMWA member are with the families of the three miners who have been killed on the job in the last week. Though none of them were members of our union, we stand ready to assist their families in any way we can. One of those killed was a supervisor who was a former UMWA member working at the McElroy mine outside Moundsville, W. Va., where we represent the hourly workers. We are participating in the investigation into his death at that mine.

"The circumstances surrounding each of these fatalities are different, and I do not want to draw immediate conclusions as to their causes based on incomplete evidence at this time. But it is extremely troubling that within a week after the federal government shutdown caused the normal system of mine safety inspection and enforcement to come to a halt, three miners are dead," Roberts continued. "The government's watchdog isn't watching. The shutdown means that there are fewer mine inspectors on the job. Those who are working are either keeping an eye on operators and mines with a history of mine safety and health problems, or responding to special situations. But no regular inspections are taking place, even though they are required by law.

"Safety violations that would normally be caught and corrected as a result of those inspections are being missed. Even the smallest violations, when allowed to accumulate, can lead to dangerous conditions very quickly in a coal mine. I urge all miners, union members or not, to be especially careful at work. Check on your buddy. Watch each other's back. Take extra precautions when operating machinery. And finally, call your members of Congress and Senators and tell them while they’re squabbling, miners are dying."

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