We have discussed workplace safety in prior issues and have attorneys to convey the message that workers are entitled to a safe place to work. That is extremely important especially considering that we spend most of our waking hours at our places of employment. As we all know, some jobs are more dangerous than others. Mining sites include underground operations, elevated environments in excess of 400 feet, and involves heavy machinery and blasting. Given the work environment and the necessary hazardous activities, injuries and fatalities are to be expected. Poor safety practices only enhance these injuries and deaths. Mine safety took a huge leap forward in 1978, the first year of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). As we have previously reported, MSHA’s purpose is to reduce injuries and deaths through enforcement, education and training.
Although injuries and deaths have decreased since the creation of MSHA, mining operators across the country engage in unsafe practices in violation of state and federal regulations that lead to unnecessary accidents. According to MSHA statistics, between 250 and 300 fatalities occurred in U.S. mining facilities in 1978. That number decreased to a low of between 40 and 50 fatalities in 2014. MSHA statistics for nonfatal injuries have been steadily declining. In 2003, MSHA documented more than 8,000 nonfatal injuries. In 2012, that number decreased to just over 5,500 nonfatal injuries. The prevailing thought is the numbers are decreasing due to MSHA’s efforts in conducting inspections, working with mine operators to improve safety on mining sites and issuing civil monetary penalties when violations are discovered. Along with the enforcement of federal regulations through MSHA, some states also impose safety requirements on mining operations. Chapter 9 of the Alabama Code (Coal Mine Safety) contains our state’s regulations with respect to mining operations.
Currently, our firm is handling two cases involving nonfatal mining site injuries. The first case involves a severe injury to our client’s arm. MSHA investigated the incident, identified numerous safety regulation violations and issued civil monetary penalties against the mining operator. That case is still pending.
In February of this year, another incident occurred at a mining site in Talladega County, Ala. We represent a worker who was injured. Our client was operating heavy equipment at an elevation exceeding four hundred feet. Because the highwall was not constructed in accordance with federal and state regulations the equipment fell off the elevation more than 100 feet to a lower level. As a result of the fall, the client sustained a serious brain injury.
Unfortunately for his family, it is likely that our client will remain in a vegetative state for the remainder of his life. His spouse went from having a gainfully employed husband to performing all of his activities of daily living for him. MSHA is currently investigating this incident and we expect numerous findings of safety violations and the imposition of civil monetary fines.
Those findings and civil monetary fines will do nothing, however, to assist with the medical care that will be necessary for our client for the remainder of his natural life. The Talladega case is in its infancy; however, we know that the costs associated with the care and treatment of our client could well exceed several million dollars. Based on what we already know, the incident was preventable if safety regulations had been followed. MSHA’s findings will provide a roadmap for the litigation.
We will keep you updated with the progress of these two cases. If you need more information you can contact Kendall Dunson, the lawyer in our firm who is lead counsel in the two cases. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com.
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