At a recent panel, scientists debated with mine operators about the current regulations against coal dust and black lung disease. Scientists argued operators “should go above and beyond” the standard protections for miners and use new tools for monitoring safety conditions.
The debate follows a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), an organization of researchers that advises the government. The report stated a sharp increase in black lung disease in 2000 and suggested the current approach for miners is no longer enough.
In 2012, eight percent of miners with 25 years of experience or more were diagnosed with black lung disease. The Obama administration enacted a regulation in 2014 to lower how much coal dust is allowed to float in the air. However, the Trump administration is currently looking into the effectiveness of the rule.
The scientists did not comment on the need for more government regulation, but they hope industry leaders will support new measures to protect coal miners from serious health risks and workplace incidents.
Health risks for coal miners
Coal miners are not only at risk for black lung disease; many workers experience serious accidents or Silica dust explosions underground because of improper ventilation plans.
A small spark in a poorly ventilated mine can lead to severe injuries for workers. Coal dust is not the only critical factor in the mines. Proper ventilation is essential for monitoring methane gas and avoiding methane explosions.
There is also the risk of roof falls and rib rolls, a large section of coal pillar ribs falls on miners. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 93 days of work are lost due to rib fall injuries.
In any medical emergency, miners should seek medical attention and consult with a doctor about further treatment. Miners may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits for medical bills and lost wages, so check with the employer to determine the compensation process.