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What safety protections exist for mine workers?

Mining can, unfortunately, be a dangerous profession. Miners can sometimes fall victim to mine collapses and other types of workplace accidents that can cause injuries and harm to mine workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, there were a total of 38 metal and non-metal and coal mining fatalities in 2014. In 2013, there were a total of 43 fatalities, preceded by 36 in 2012, 37 in 2011 and 71 in 2010.

According to the federal Mine Act, the responsibility for the health and safety of mine workers belongs to mine operators. Through Congress, MSHA has the power under the patterns of violations provision to protect the health and safety of miners. The POV provision provides enforcement powers for MSHA when confronting the problem of mines that display and pattern of significant, substantial violations that may place workers in danger.

Mine operators displaying a pattern of significant and substantial violations first receive written notice followed by an order for mine workers to withdraw from the area impacted until the hazard cited by MSHA has been corrected. Mine operators must proactively keep track of injuries and may need to take corrective action to avoid becoming subject to the POV provision by reducing significant and substantial violations.

When injuries and workplace accidents occur, including mining accidents, different options may exist for injured workers. In most cases, regardless of the circumstances, workers are able to receive workers' compensation benefits for medical expenses and lost wages; in addition, survivors' benefits may also be available for families of workers killed in a workplace accident. In circumstances when a third party was responsible for the harm the worker suffered, additional legal options to recover damages may also be available. Understanding their rights in a variety of circumstances is important for Asheville workers in all industries.

Source: United States Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, "Patterns of Violations," accessed March 9, 2015

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