Coal mining in Kentucky is strenuous and dirty work with numerous health hazards. Coal mine accidents cause miners traumatic injury, and long-term exposure to coal dust and other hazardous chemicals and conditions cause cumulative harm, such as black lung disease and debilitating musculoskeletal injuries.
The Kentucky coal industry employs about 5,200 people, about 3,200 of whom are underground miners and another 1,000 who work in surface mines. Coal mining accidents in Kentucky continue to claim lives and leave miners with serious injuries that change their lives and their families’ lives forever.
If you have been injured or become ill while working as a Kentucky coal miner, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits including paid medical care, partial replacement of lost wages, and disability compensation associated with your condition. If you have lost a family member to an injury or illness related to employment as a miner, you may be able to obtain certain death benefits including money for burial expenses.
Injured coal miners deserve the full workers’ comp benefits provided by law. But obtaining those benefits may require courage and determination. It takes Kentucky Courage to fight for comprehensive workers’ benefits after an injury. Kentucky coal miners have it, and so do we.
The Kentucky workers’ compensation lawyers of Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer will fight for the workers’ comp benefits that you and/or your family deserve. If a workers’ compensation administrator has disputed your benefits, you need an experienced workers’ comp attorney on your side. We can stand up for you throughout the appeal process if a claim has been denied.
Contact the dedicated workers’ comp lawyers at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer today to learn more about your legal rights and options. We have eight office locations through Kentucky to serve clients. The claim review is free.
Physical Risks Of Coal Mining
Many of the conditions involved in mining coal – drilling, blasting, heavy machinery, toxic chemicals, working in tight spaces underground, moving heavy loads – carry risk of injury, despite mining safety rules and regulations. Coal mine accidents that have led to injury and death are legendary in Kentucky.
Some of the most common causes of coal mining accidents and coal mining injuries are:
- Fire and Explosion. Fire in an underground mine can cause burn injuries but is more likely to claim victims from smoke inhalation or asphyxiation as the fire eats up the oxygen. There are numerous ways a coal mine fire may be ignited, from use of explosives, to machinery or electrical short-circuits, spontaneous combustion of coal dust or broken coal, or ignition of gasses seeping from mine walls. Layers of coal trap methane, a highly combustible gas that can ignite from as little as the spark from a hand tool striking rock. Rock and debris sent flying by an explosion can strike a miner and injure or kill.
- Flooding. A flooded mine can cause miners to drown or suffer near-drownings right away and/or strand others who find isolated or higher ground but may perish before rescue is possible. Underground and open pit coal mines can flood if drainage wells or dewatering pumps stop working and open spaces fill with groundwater or surface water. Improperly maintained or designed mining infrastructure may have broken pipes or water mains that leak and corrode until they burst and flood a mine. Poorly planned digging or explosions can lead to an inrush of groundwater.
- Mine Collapse. Mine collapse might be caused by natural seismic activity or due to mining activity such as planned explosions, explosions of gasses or coal dust, or poor structural support of mine ceilings. A collapse can injure or kill those struck by falling rock and timbers that can trap miners.
- Accidents During Haulage. Heavy loads that fall or overturn while being moved can cause broken bones and other crush injuries to miners hit by loose material or overturned carriers.
- Machinery and Tool Accidents. Machines and tools designed to crush or tear into walls of coal can easily cause injury. Machine and tool accidents can happen due to misuse or malfunction, such as unanticipated restarts during attempts to repair and restart machines or tools that are not working.
Health Risks of Coal Mining
While coal mine accidents and explosions make headlines, the mines themselves contain hazards that pose an ongoing risk. Conscientious miners use a variety of mining safety equipment and practices to protect themselves, but years of physical work in a coal mine can cause wear and tear and cumulative trauma, hearing loss and serious respiratory disease.
Despite taking precautions, coal miners face illness and injury from:
- Coal Dust. Long-term inhalation of coal dust can cause what is commonly referred to as “miner’s lung” or “black lung disease.” Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) is characterized by inflammation of lung tissue, coughing and fibrosis, which is thickening or scarring of tissue. There is no cure, but treatment can help manage symptoms of CWP and improve quality of life. Black lung disease can lead to such complications as chronic bronchitis, or long-term inflammation of the breathing tubes; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an inflammatory disease that blocks airflow from the lungs; and/or lung cancer.
- Chemical Hazards. Mine workers are often exposed to harmful chemicals, including polymeric chemicals used for ground consolidation work. Exposure to these chemicals may cause occupational asthma, and some are classified as carcinogens. Chemical burns caused by contact with acids/alkalis cause many mining injuries. Studies suggest that mine workers who suffer the most chemical-related injuries and illnesses include media operators responsible for handling reagents, boney preparation plant operators who oversee removal of “bone” from coal, and crusher operators who use large crushers to break mined material.
- Noise. The constant sound of heavy machinery in coal mines, particularly in tight underground spaces, can lead to hearing loss and other issues over time. Miners often do not notice the damage to their hearing until they have suffered significant hearing loss, which is irreversible. Exposure to prolonged loud noise can cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sleep disturbances and concentration problems.
- Musculoskeletal Injury. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) refer to any problems affecting your bones, muscles, blood vessels and nerves. Many MSDs are traumatic injuries caused by a fall or being slammed against a solid object. But miners are often disabled by MSDs that develop because of years of heavy lifting or repetitive strain, such as chronic back pain or knee injuries.
- Whole Body Vibration. Continuous work with heavy machinery that includes riding or standing to guide machines can cause the slow forming physical hazard known as “whole body vibration,” or WBV. WBV can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, vision impairment, digestive problems, cardiovascular changes, and reproductive damage in women.
How Are Coal Mining Accidents Handled In Kentucky?
The Kentucky Division of Mine Safety (DMS) is required to investigate all serious and fatal mining accidents within the Commonwealth. Any occupational injury suffered by a miner or other employee is to be reported in writing to the DMS within 10 business days.
State law (KRS 352.180) requires mining accidents to be reported to DMS immediately if the accident causes:
- Inundation of the mine by liquid or gas
- Ignition or explosion of gas or dust, or blasting agent or explosive
- Fire lasting more than 10 minutes underground or 30 minutes in a surface mine
- Roof fall
- Disruptive rock or coal outburst
- Damage to hoisting equipment in a shaft or slope that endangers an individual or interferes with use of the equipment for more than 30 minutes.
The DMS is to send a trained accident Investigator to the mine site to gather information about the accident and to ensure the safety of employees at the mine. The investigator produces a written report of the accident.
Upon completion of the investigation, a representative of DMS reviews the accident with the victim and/or victim’s family and a company official.
How A Coal Mine Workers’ Comp Lawyer Could Help You
Coal miners deserve the financial protection Kentucky law provides them for doing difficult and dangerous work. Neither an injured coal miner nor the family of a miner whose death was caused in a mining accident should be denied the workers’ compensation benefits provided by law.
At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we stand up for hardworking Kentucky coal miners and their families. Our dedicated attorneys have recovered more than $150 million in workers’ compensation benefits for our clients. We’re ready to fight for you and show them what Kentucky Courage means.
For a free initial consultation, contact us by phone or by filling out a contact form online. We have offices conveniently located across Kentucky. Call us now at (877) 809-5352.