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New mining regulations to limit safety hazards

Many typical work accidents cause very obvious injuries. However, the effects of some hazardous activities only show up years later. This kind of workplace injury may result in disease. A recent rise in cases of black lung disease among miners has become a major source of concern. Also known as coal worker’s pneumoconiosis, the disease develops as a result of breathing in coal dust over a long period. According to industry experts, the ailment has claimed thousands of mine workers’ lives since the 1960s.

The enactment of the Coal Mining Health and Safety Act in 1969 led to a sharp decline in cases of the disease. Health officials have however noticed an increase of cases in parts of the country especially in smaller mines.

As a result, federal officials are introducing more stringent rules to deal with this trend. Key factors driving the increase in black lung instances were identified as longer shifts and more efficient machines that give off more coal dust. Mining in thinner coal seams was also cited as a possible factor. The new Labor Department regulations require shift durations to be cut by 25 percent. Miners exposed to high concentrations of dust will also be required to have monitors. These monitors continuously keep track of dust levels. Operators are supposed to act immediately if levels rise above recommended limits. The law obligates employers to get rid of safety hazards in the workplace.

These new regulations are expected to affect thousands of mines throughout the country. The move has not gone without criticism. One mining industry official dismissed the rules as disregarding progress already made. He also said the move provided a blanket solution to the problem and did not address the unique traits of various industry players. Although strides have been made in the sector, more needs to be done to make sure the health of Ohio mine workers is completely protected from safety hazards.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Black Lung Disease Spurs New Coal-Mine Rules,” Kris Maher, April 23, 2014

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The Bainbridge Firm, LLC

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