A coal mine can be a dangerous place. Health threats exist in the air you breathe, the ground you dig and the tools and equipment you use. Toxin exposure, mine explosions and accidents are not uncommon.
West Virginia miners have workplace rights unique to their profession. Some coal miners may not be certain what these protections are. Coal mining injuries often drive a strong interest in regulations about working in hazardous environments and mine safety violations.
An awareness of miner health safeguards helps prevent coal mining injuries. Miner knowledge also keeps coal mine owners and operators in compliance with federal safety regulations. Employers are expected to make workers aware of their rights, but miners also may access the information through other sources, like the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration.
For example, coal miners are entitled to receive no-cost chest X-rays at the time of hiring and regularly thereafter. X-rays detect the presence of black lung disease, formally known as coal workers' pneumoconiosis, linked to the inhalation of coal dust.
Miners diagnosed with black lung may be eligible for transfers to mine areas with lower concentrations of coal dust without a loss of pay. Victims may not be discriminated against or dismissed due to partial black lung disability. Coal miners, unable to work due to total disability from black lung or other work-related injuries or illnesses, are entitled to workers' compensation benefits and in some cases, can pursue damage claims.
You have the right to know about the presence of chemicals, noise, toxic substances and other hazards in your workplace and what employers are required to do to keep you informed and safe at work. This may include air or noise monitoring, safety training and the issuance of protective gear.
An attorney can answer specific questions and provide in-depth information about miner health rights, safety issues and legal remedies for injured workers.