Coal mining is big business in the United States that became a major industry in many states during the nineteenth century. Today, it affects the lives of thousands of Alabama residents. However, underground mining claims the lives of many mineworkers nationwide each year, and if this is how you earn your living, you are likely aware of the hazards of your job.
Mining safety has improved over the years, which might provide some level of comfort. Early in the 20th Century, there were an average of over 1,000 on-the-job fatalities a year. Now, better safety cultures in the mining industry have brought the rate down to between 60 and 70 per year. Even if you are familiar with the safety regulations, and know how to react to emergencies, understanding the threats may help you to stay safe.
Explosive or poisonous gases in the ground
Some of the most significant mining disasters, and deaths of many, involved methane. Coal layers in the earth trap this highly explosive gas, and specific errors can cause explosions. These include mechanical errors when electrical equipment or safety lamps malfunction, or they can occur with improper handling of mining equipment. The use of the wrong explosives can trigger small blasts in methane pockets that can initiate coal dust explosions.
Specially trained workers use explosives to break rocks. This process poses many hazards, even with proper use. The following dangerous situations can arise during and after blasting activities:
- Misfires: When the blasting charge fails to explode as expected — even partial failure — a misfire occurs. This leaves explosive products in the muck pile or the ground that pose deadly hazards during subsequent processes. If you and your co-workers use any mechanical equipment for crushing, milling, digging or other procedures in that area later, the remaining pyrotechnical products could explode.
- Premature explosion: Factors that can cause the blast to occur sooner than planned may include degenerated explosives, accidental detonation, carelessness or defective fuses.
- Flying rocks: This might be the most prevalent cause of fatalities and injuries in surface mining activities, and it occurs when mineworkers are too close to the blasting site or struck by rocks that flew further than expected. While the same threat exists in underground mines, most fatalities related to blasting involved workers who did not move far enough away from the blast area or those who suffered explosive fume poisoning.
- Mine-Induced seismicity: This threat exists for both surface and underground mining, and it poses a higher risk in areas with high seismic activity. Blasting procedures can cause slope instability and earthquake-like collapses. Such a calamity could trap mineworkers underground, cause flooding of the mine and damage surface structures.
Learn about your rights
It is important for you to know your right to safe work environments and compensation in the event of a work-related injury. If you suffer coalmine injuries, you can pursue financial relief through the Alabama workers’ compensation insurance program. Benefits typically cover medical expenses and lost wages, and if the claims process proves too complicated, resources are available to provide the necessary guidance and support.