Coal Mine Safety up to Miners, Supervisors

Jul 13, 2011

Once again Kentucky mine safety officials are asking what could have been done to prevent a death on the job. 26 year old Ryan Thatcher of Salyersville died Monday while working at a Martin County mine.  His was the third coal-related death this year. Kentucky Mine Safety and Licensing executive director Johnny Green says tools, technology and regulations are in place to prevent deaths and accidents in the mines.  Green traces some problems to miners themselves and those people who supervise them.

“They can’t envision themselves getting hurt. They think they’re so good on the equipment that they can get by with it, you know. Number one, that’ll get you hurt. Number two is, if you’re the section foreman or the supervisor you can’t allow these folks to do that. When they do these things they’re a matter of habit and we want our supervisor staff to eliminate these,” said Green.

Green says attitudes in the coal fields have changed since the West Virginia disaster last year that took 25 lives. Green knows a spotlight is shining on the industry.

“Everybody is aware that we’re looked at very carefully. Upper Big Branch was a tragedy, again if somebody has a solution that can tell me how to magically prevent any coal mine fatalities or getting hurt in a coal mine I’m all ears, believe me,” said Green.

Kentucky has never had a year with zero deaths but that’s Greene’s goal. He says it’s the job of 75 state inspectors to spot unsafe working conditions. Greene says dozens of state analysts constantly encourage miners to improve their work habits. About 400 licensed coal mines in Kentucky employ about 18-thousand miners.