The perils of underground coal mining in Alabama

Underground mining has always been an extremely hazardous occupation, and despite technological advances, it remains dangerous. Whenever mining accidents occur, investigators usually determine the cause to be a combination of various hazards. Although safety authorities expect employers in the mining industry in Alabama to protect the health and safety of employees, you and your co-workers will remain at risk of suffering severe injuries during every underground shift you work.

The list of risks you face is endless, and along with accidents involving shuttle cars, forklifts, rock trucks and other equipment used in coal mines, you will always have to deal with the threat of a mine collapse. Such collapses do not just happen; they typically follow incidents involving fire, toxic atmospheric contaminants, gas or dust explosions, floods, or combinations of these hazards.

Toxic contaminants

Your work area underground is likely confined and has a limited atmosphere. If an adequate ventilation system is absent, diesel fumes, aerosols and dust can be hazardous. Further contaminants include gasses that originate from the rock strata and particulates contained in the blasting fumes.

Mine collapse

If you are present during a threatening mine collapse, you might find that one or more of the following occurrences compromised the stability of an underground coal mine:

  • SeismicityIf the underground areas of the tunnels and shafts are in a region with seismic activities, the underground mining could induce seismicity and instability.
  • Explosives: A mine could collapse if the use of explosives causes earthquake-like events. If you are present during such an event, you might become trapped underground.
  • Pillar or timbering failure: Timbers and pillars are essential structures in underground mines, and they serve to support the roofs of shafts and other areas. When anything causes instability in these support structures, horrendous collapses can occur.

Causes of fires

Fires in underground mines have led to many collapses -- some of them causing fatalities. However, you might be surprised to learn about some of the potential sources of fires:

  • Lighters, matches and cigarettes that belong to irresponsible workers who are smokers can cause fires.
  • Activities that involve air or gas compression pose fire hazards.
  • Electrical sparks that originate from the hot surfaces or short circuits in distribution systems or electrical equipment.
  • Friction between conveyor belts and fixed objects can cause sparks.
  • Sparks can also come from defective bearings of wheels, axles, drums or conveyor idlers.
  • Seized brakes of underground vehicles can let off sparks.
  • Cutting machinery picks can cause incendive sparks.
  • Hot work such as grinding, burning and welding produce dangerous sparks.
  • Hot surfaces, air inlets and exhaust systems of internal combustion engines pose spark hazards.
  • Coal in the waste or high-risk seams can ignite spontaneously.
  • Lightning and electrostatic discharges are natural sources of ignition.

Who will provide assistance if you suffer injuries?

While it could help you to be aware of the risks you face and the potential causes of dangerous conditions, you might not be fortunate enough to escape injuries. If you should be involved in an underground mining accident in Alabama, your inability to care for your family while you are unable to work might cause anxiety. However, help is available from an experienced law firm with knowledge and resources to help you obtain the compensation and benefits to which you are entitled.

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