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Mining accidents: are Colorado miners aware of the impact?

Colorado has a number of mines across the state that employs approximately 12,000 workers. In addition, the Colorado Mining Association estimates that around 46,000 people are employed in professions and industries that are related to the mining industry. These workers, which include engineers, consultants and technicians, support an industry that produced 29 million tons of coal last year.

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To those who work in related professions, the dangers of working in a coal mine may not be as apparent. But for miners in Colorado and across the country, a mining accident is a possibility. But even with safety regulations in place to help protect mine workers, accidents still happen. The US Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently released a report about mine fatalities.

Nationally, there were 18 workers who lost their lives in mine accidents in the first half of this year. The causes of the fatal accidents include:

  • Coal mining accident
  • Machinery accident
  • Explosion
  • Hoisting accident
  • Roof fall

What makes these deaths even more frustrating is that, according to the MSHA, they could have been prevented. Employers have a number of safety and health management programs that they can leverage to help prevent mine accidents. But even so, workers are still getting hurt and even killed on the work site.

For those in the mining industry, there are a lot of questions that can arise. "What is an employer liable for if I get injured?" "What types of benefits are available to me if I get hurt on-the-job?" "What happens to my family if I am killed in a mining accident?" "Should OSHA and MSHA be doing more to help protect miners?"

These are some of the more common questions that may come up. Often with injuries, there are medical expenses and unexpected time off. An injured worker may find that they are unable to do the work they had done before. What then? A mining accident will impact a number of different people. Many workers have families to take care of as well. A work accident and subsequent injury can leave a family financially challenged.

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The good news is that there are benefits for workers who have been injured in a work-related accident or benefits for a worker's family if he or she has been killed in a work accident. But in the days, weeks and even months after a traumatic accident, it can be overwhelming to try to sort through the paperwork and complicated language of workers' compensation benefits. Is it worth it to try to get compensation?

Some injuries that may appear minor when they are sustained can have a long-term impact on a worker. Often with the help of a medical professional's opinion, an attorney who understands workers' compensation benefits can help an injured worker navigate the compensation process.

Statistically, the number of mining accidents has been decreasing over the past decade. But the recent report by MSHA shows that injuries and even fatal accidents are still occurring in this industry. And even with the number of accidents getting smaller, there are still people whose families and livelihoods are being changed because of an injury or death. Is there more that can be done?

Source: US Department of Labor Press Release, "US Labor Department's MSHA releases mid-year mine fatality update", July 31, 2013

Source: Colorado Mining Association, "Mining Facts and Resources", accessed July 31, 2013

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Eley Law Firm
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