Is drug use causing mine safety violations to rise? In the second year of the new drug testing program, WV state mine safety officials have pulled the certification of 555 coal miners for drug, substance, and alcohol abuse since January of last year, averaging more than one a day. The numbers may actually be higher since union miners have an opportunity to go through an arbitration process prior to suspension.
The state's mine safety director told lawmakers Monday drugs and alcohol are the biggest issues facing his agency. The law requires random drug screening of certified miners four times a year. Those checks must involve at least a quarter of a mine's workforce. The roughly "one miner a day" drug problem is backing up de-certification appeals at the board of appeals.
In an industry which is already one of the most dangerous, clarity of mind is essential for implementing the standards of safety which are essential for the protection of these miners lives. West Virginia coal miners are some of the hardest working professionals in our state, and the many who are doing it right should not have their lives jeapordized by those who aren't.
Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners. In the mines, supervisors are responsible for routinely inspecting heavy equipment such as continuous miners and performing necessary maintenance. When they fail to follow these guidelines or their judgment is impaired in any way, innocent lives are put at risk.
"The substance abuse is one of our major problems," Eugene White, director of Miner's Health Safety and Training," said. "Our primary objective is to get these people help, get them into a treatment facility and get them back in the workforce."
About 79 miners, out of 555 who were decertified, got treatment and came back. White said the testing law needs some tweaking. He said a problem area allows union miners to go to arbitration with the agency's actions impacted by the decision, even if the positive drug test is upheld.
WCHS News, Mine Officials Say Drugs Are Serious Problem In WV Coal Mines, Bob Aaron, October 21, 2014
WV MetroNews, Safety chief: Drug, alcohol problems plague mining industry, Jeff Jenkins, October 20, 2014