Lawmakers said the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 will provide federal officials with stronger tools to prevent tragedies such as the April explosion at the Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that left 29 workers dead.
The House Committee on Education & Labor, which has scheduled a hearing on the legislation, heard testimony in May from miners and families of those who died at Upper Big Branch about shortcomings in miner protections, including threats and intimidation of miners who brought up safety concerns to their bosses.
"We see the consequences of mine operators that game the system in order to push production," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the committee. "Safety is compromised and miners die. Too many families have suffered a great loss recently as the result of callous mine operators, ineffective protections, and outdated laws."
The provisions included in H.R. 5663 would establish criteria for "pattern of violations" sanctions to ensure that the most dangerous mine operations improve safety dramatically. In addition, the legislation would also increase the maximum criminal and civil penalties for mine safety violations; provide the Mine Safety and Health Administration with stronger enforcement tools that would allow the agency to seek a court order to close a mine when there is a continuing threat to the health and safety of miners; strengthen whistleblower protections for miners who speak out about unsafe conditions; modernize safety requirements in coal mines; and increase MSHA's accountability by requiring an independent investigation of the most serious accidents.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 30, 2010
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