Despite progress, underground coal mining jobs remain hazardous

Coal mining in Alabama started almost two centuries ago, and the state now ranks among the most productive coal-producing states in the country. Even after all these years, and despite progress in making the industry safer, it continues to be more hazardous than most other industries. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the rate of severe and fatal injuries in coal mining is almost triple the average rate in private sector occupations.

Unfortunately, coal mining will always be hazardous, and when employers are focused on production and getting the job done faster, your safety will depend on your ability to recognize the dangers and take precautions. Remember, you deserve a safe workplace, and it is crucial to take no chances and comply with prescribed safety standards.

Most common hazards to coal miners

Although heavy equipment like forklifts, shuttle cars, rock trucks and, even, mine collapses are typically associated with coal mine injuries, the following additional dangers exist that you might mitigate if you are aware of them:

  • Heat stress: Your enclosed work areas, the lack of natural air, and the physical exertion of your job can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. If you do not take frequent breaks and drink enough water, your condition might be life-threatening.
  • Noise: Because excessive noise from heavy mining equipment and the reverberation of drilling will always be present in your workplace, ear protection is essential. Consequences of exposure could result in tinnitus, hearing loss, deafness and concentration problems, which could make you vulnerable to making mistakes.
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: The nature of your job will have you lifting, pulling and pushing heavy objects, and also working in awkward postures, reaching overhead and frequent bending. MSDs develop from damaged blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Whole Body Vibration: If your job involves the frequent operation of vibrating equipment, you will risk WBV, which could be another cause of musculoskeletal disorders. Furthermore, WBV could lead to cardiovascular changes, digestive disorders and vision impairment, and if you are a female, it could damage your reproductive organs.
  • Chemical hazards: The chemical process that separates mined minerals and metals from ore, and is also used to treat wastewater in the mining process, is hazardous. It can cause poisoning, burns, respiratory problems and more.

Along with these risks, you will deal with dust, which is the most significant hazard of the coal mining industry. If you work without respiratory protection, you can develop silicosis, which is a disabling and even deadly lung disease.

How will you cope with the consequences of injuries?

Regardless of your best efforts to stay safe on your job as a coal miner, sooner or later, you will likely suffer a work-related injury. It would be sensible to learn about your rights and the steps to take when this happens. The support and guidance of an attorney who has extensive experience in fighting for the rights of injured mine workers in Alabama can be invaluable. The lawyer can explain your rights and assist with obtaining maximum workers' compensation benefits allowed under applicable laws.

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