What is National Miners Day?

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Each year on December 6, National Miners Day recognizes the hard-working individuals who risk their health and their lives to extract coal, copper, gravel, limestone, and other minerals from the earth that are used in a wide range of products, from glass and sheetrock to electrical wiring and construction materials. Mining is difficult, dangerous work, but there are hundreds of thousands of miners in the United States who put their lives on the line every day without a second thought, despite the fact they face a range of health hazards and safety risks. Miners who are injured on the job or suffer serious health complications resulting from exposure to hazardous materials are eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. A seasoned Workers’ Compensation lawyer can provide valuable assistance for injured miners.

History of National Miners Day

Congress proclaimed December 6 National Miners Day in remembrance of the worst mining disaster in American history. On December 6, 1907, an explosion occurred in one of the Fairmont Coal Company’s mines in Monongah, West Virginia, killing more than 350 miners. The blast caused the entrance of the mine to collapse, and it destroyed the ventilation system. As a result, poisonous gases collected in the mine shaft. Any of the miners who survived the initial blast likely died of poisoning or suffocation. Although this mining disaster resulted in a push for stronger government safety regulations, strict safety standards for the mining industry were not enforced until the mid-20th century.

Today, the U.S. The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) enforces safety standards and regulations to protect the health and safety of all miners. MSHA is responsible for the following enforcement activities:

  • Conduct quarterly and semiannual inspections of the mines and its facilities.
  • Issue citations for violations.
  • Issue withdrawal orders remove equipment that is not working or need repairs and remove miners if the environment becomes unsafe.
  • Conduct samplings of respirable dust and monitor any materials or physical against that may be harmful or toxic.
  • Investigate all serious and fatal accidents.
  • Investigate complaints from miners about hazardous or unsafe conditions.
  • Investigate criminal violations.
  • Examine all reports of discrimination reported by miners.
  • Ensure that the required roof control, ventilation systems, emergency response, and training plans are approved.
  • Review education and training plans for miners.
  • Oversee the training and certification of instructors.
  • Continue to develop and improve health and safety standards.

Common Hazards in the Mining Industry

Strict safety legislation and improvements to safety protocols has reduced the number of serious and fatal injuries in the mining industry over the years. Understanding the hazards associated with the environment and making safety a priority can help prevent injuries and illnesses among miners. The following are some of the most common health risks that miners face:

  • Coal dust: Inhalation of coal dust can cause a serious lung condition known as black lung or miner’s lung. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, cough with or without black sputum, chest tightness, and scarring of lung tissue. The number of cases has gone down in recent years as a result of prevention measures, but new cases still occur. Workers must be trained on the hazards of coal dust and provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Noise: Constant drilling and the use of heavy equipment can cause hearing damage, particularly for miners who are exposed to this type of occupational noise on a regular basis. Overexposure to excessive noise can cause a range of hearing problems, including tinnitus, sleep issues, difficulty concentrating, and permanent hearing loss. Employers are responsible for maintaining machinery to reduce noise levels and providing miners with the appropriate personal hearing protection.
  • Whole body vibration (WBV): This is a physical hazard associated with operating heavy machinery. They can become dangerous when the vibration involves uneven surfaces, engine vibrations, and vehicle activity such as ripping as opposed to pushing material in a bulldozer. Employers should make sure that workers limit the amount of time that they are exposed to these types of vibrations each day and that the proper training and instruction is provided.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) exposure: Mine workers often spend entire days outside in the hot sun, which exposes them to harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer. Other health risks associated with overexposure to the sun include dehydration, headaches, and nausea. Employers should ensure that workers are aware of the risks associated with UV exposure and encourage them to take the necessary precautions.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs): These are injuries that affect the bones, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Mine workers who lift heavy objects on a regular basis are at an increased risk for MSDs. Effective health and safety programs can help reduce the risk of serious MSDs.
  • Thermal stress: Mines are often very hot and humid, which can cause the body to become fatigued and distressed. In extreme cases, workers can suffer from heat stroke or other serious health issues. Providing PPEs that incorporate personal cooling systems and uniforms made of breathable fabrics can help protect workers.
  • Chemical hazards: Depending on the environment and the type of materials that are being mined, mine workers are often exposed to harmful chemicals, including polymeric chemicals. Exposure can cause chemical burns, respiratory issues, and poisoning. Proper ventilation is crucial to minimizing exposure. In addition, employers must train workers on how to respond to a chemical spill.

How Do Coal Miners Get Black Lung Disease?

Black lung disease is also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP) because it mainly affects coal miners. As a miner breathes in coal dust, it settles into the airways and the lungs. The immune system will try to remove the particles, which can cause inflammation. This can lead to fibrosis, which is the scarring of the lung tissue. There are two types of black lung disease, including simple CWP, which occurs when the lung has spots or scar tissue from dust particles. People with complicated CWP have extensive scarring in their lungs. Coal miners who develop black lung disease may develop the following lung complications:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which is a long-term inflammation of the breathing tubes.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is an inflammatory disease that blocks airflow from the lungs.
  • Lung cancer, which can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and bloody mucus. Treatment involves chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery.

Treatment Options for Black Lung Disease

Unfortunately, there is no treatment available that can reverse that damage caused by coal dust. However, there are steps that can be taken to slow the progression of the disease. Once a health care provider has determined the extent of the exposure, he or she can recommend the best treatment options. This may include prescription medication; breathing treatments; and pulmonary rehabilitation, which involves exercises that can help patients with chronic lung issues stay active and improve their quality of life. Supplemental oxygen may be necessary if there is extensive scarring on the patient’s lungs. In extreme cases, a lung transplant may be necessary.

Workers who have been diagnosed with black lung disease will need to schedule regular visits with their health care provider to monitor the condition. The doctor may require a lung function test or a chest X-ray to monitor the disease more closely. There are steps that the patient can take to maintain his or her health and slow the progression of the disease, including the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly but avoid overexertion.
  • Take steps to prevent respiratory infections that can aggravate the condition. Get an annual flu shot, as well as vaccinations against pneumococcal pneumonia as recommended by a health care provider.
  • Take proactive steps to monitor the condition and know the signs of infections. See a doctor immediately if an infection develops.
  • Be prepared to manage disease flare-ups.
  • If the worker smokes, he or she is urged to quit immediately, as smoking can cause further damage to the lungs and make symptoms worse.

Black lung cannot be cured once an individual has it, but it can be prevented. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed a set of safety standards that can help workers avoid the disease. For example, mine workers should always wear a mask when there is a risk of coal dust exposure. In addition, at the end of their workday, miners should remove all clothing that may have dust on it and wash their hands, face, and any skin that came in contact with dust, particularly before eating, drinking, or taking any medication.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Financial Benefits for Mine Workers

If you or a loved one developed black lung disease, or any other health complications from working in a mine, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. This can be dangerous work, but common health hazards can be avoided when the appropriate safety precautions are taken, and employers provide the necessary training and PPE. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and seek the maximum financial benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.