Coal mining is one of the hardest and most dangerous occupations in West Virginia. Unfortunately, this work is often far more hazardous than necessary. Every year, miners suffer serious injuries due to the decisions of coal operators to violate safety regulations. The employers in this industry are obligated by law to meet certain standards in order to keep miners as safe as possible, and when they neglect this responsibility the consequences can be catastrophic.
A West Virginia resident was recently indicted by a grand jury on counts of falsifying safety records while claiming to be a foreman at the Tunnel Ridge Mine.
The 31-year-old miner claimed to be qualified to evaluate mine safety, but he actually did not have the proper certifications to do so. He reportedly stated that he passed the mine foreman test and that he had a foreman ID card. He is facing a criminal charge for making these false claims to a federal agent.
In total, the miner is facing 30 criminal charges. He could be sent to prison for five years for each individual count if convicted.
The miner apparently caught the attention of investigators when the certifications of all of Tunnel Ridge's foremen were being reviewed for a continuing education initiative. Investigators found that the certification number this miner listed had never been issued by the West Virginia Office of Mine, Health, Safety and Training.
The allegations in this case are disturbing. It is critical that those who are responsible for mine safety are qualified for their jobs.
Regardless of the cause of a coal mining accident, the victims and their families are entitled to compensation, including workers' compensation benefits and potentially other recoveries for legal violations. The victims of such accidents and their loved ones may be wise to seek legal counsel to learn about their rights.
Source: WTOV 9, "Ohio County coal miner charged with falsifying safety records," April 7, 2014