Commentary: Coal mining safety standards must remain strong

This editorial appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

For the second straight year, a move in the legislature would weaken safety protections for Kentucky's coal miners.

House Bill 119 could double the risk to miners when there is an emergency in a small mine. This would provide a financial savings to operators amounting to a few seconds of coal production.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, would exempt mines employing fewer than 18 workers from a requirement to have two mine emergency technicians on duty during work shifts. METs are trained by the state to administer first aid and assist injured miners.

The small mines could get by with just one MET under the bill, which has cleared Rep. Jim Gooch's committee and is awaiting consideration by the full House.

The requirement for two METs was enacted two years ago as part of a mine-safety package in direct response to the needless death of David "Bud" Morris, whose legs were severed in an accident at H&D Mining in Harlan County.

The lone MET, who also owned the coal company, froze and did nothing while Morris lost so much blood there was no way to save him once he finally reached the hospital in Harlan.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.