The mining industry is a major source of employment in Walker County, Alabama, and those who work in coal, oil and gas extraction are subjected to unique hazards. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 gives all miners certain rights and responsibilities on the jobsite to prevent and report unsafe working conditions that could lead to accidents. The Mine Act states that anyone who works at a mine is considered a "miner," including the following:
- Equipment operators
- Construction workers
When a miner suspects that conditions such as heavy dust or toxic substances have caused a health issue, he or she has the right to a medical evaluation. If there is a corresponding problem, such as black lung disease, the miner has the right to be transferred to a position where the hazard is not present. Workers who have not had adequate safety training can leave the mine until that training has been fulfilled. Miners have the responsibility to file a complaint about a hazard or safety violation, and the right to refuse to work under those conditions.
According to the Seasonal Safety Alert provided by MSHA, as miners are preparing equipment for winter, the hazards of the occupation increase. Falling machines and crush injuries are often prevalent during this time of year. Wet, slick or cold weather can be factors affecting safety, as well as performing non-routine tasks such as disassembling and winterizing equipment. MSHA recommends that thorough examinations of the jobsite be conducted, and corresponding plans and training be created to prevent a workplace injury accident.