The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training (MHS&T) reports that 53 of the state’s 55 counties have a strong presence of coal. Only Hardy County and Jefferson County located in the eastern panhandle have no coal at all. With this statistic in mind, it makes sense that many West Virginians make their living mining coal. MHS&T further reports that the West Virginia Coal Industry employs 30,000 people. This includes miners, mine supply companies, coal preparation plant employees, and mine contractors.
Coal Mining is a Dangerous Occupation
People who go into coal mining understand that their occupation comes with more risks than most other types of jobs. Even so, they expect and deserve for their employers to provide safe working conditions. Unfortunately, employers fail in that duty much more often than they should. This can result in devastating injuries and even death for people employed as coal miners. According to the United States Department of Labor, five of the most serious types of injuries include:
- Burns: Mining for coal releases methane gas. This in turn increases the likelihood of a fire or explosion in the mine. Anyone who has experienced even a minor burn knows how painful they can be. If you or a loved one have burns on a large percentage of your body, you can expect a long and painful recovery.
- Electrocution: Poor working conditions and using faulty equipment while mining can cause unintentional electrocution. Severe electrocution can even be fatal.
- Entrapment: When a roof or stockpile collapses, a coal miner can become trapped under hundreds of pounds of debris. Defective mining equipment can cause a crush accident to occur as well. The incidents can lead to anything from a single broken bone to paraplegia, quadriplegia, or death.
- Injuries due to handling materials, use of tools, or hoisting: Miners can injure themselves when lifting, pulling, shoveling, or pushing loose sand, rock, timber, and coal. Tools such as power shovels, compressors, drills, and tuggers can cause injury due to malfunction. Injuries because of malfunctions in cages, buckets, skips, or elevators used during the hoisting process are also common.
- Slip and fall: A miner can slip off a piece of machinery or haulage equipment while it’s not moving, step in a hole, or fall when repairing or servicing equipment.
Coal Mining Injury and Death Statistics in West Virginia
Since the beginning of this decade, 35 people have lost their lives in a mining accident in West Virginia. Several years between 2010 and 2014 saw up to seven fatalities per year while two people perished in 2015 and three in 2016. Although these numbers are much lower than they were in previous decades, that brings no comfort to grieving family members. Perhaps you are even one of them. The MHS&T reports 809 long-term injuries in 2015, the most recent complete year for which data is available.
The Long-Term Effects of Coal Mining Injury and Wrongful Death
Injuries sustained in a coal mining accident can produce lifelong complications. Burns, for example, require ongoing painful treatment and cause disfigurement. Exposure to harmful chemicals can lead to a lifetime of breathing problems while limb amputation may prevent the miner from ever pursuing gainful employment again. Even those who go on to make a full recovery often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder as the frightening memories invade their every thought. These injured miners have bills to pay and families to support just like everyone else.
Obviously, the sudden death of a loved one is both emotionally and financially devastating for any family. They must cope with the medical expenses from before the person succumbed to injuries and the funeral and burial costs later. Families must also live without the coal miner’s income, which can be difficult to do if that person was the breadwinner.
The attorneys at Wilson, Frame & Metheney understand that many people in West Virginia come from families who have worked as coal miners for generations. They also know the unique lifestyle that miners lead and the dangers they face on the job every day. If you or an immediate family member have sustained serious injury while coal mining and are unsatisfied with the workers’ compensation offered to you, please contact us for a free case evaluation. We also work with people who have lost a family member due to a coal mining accident.