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Report shows that fatal workplace accident could've been avoided

Most West Virginians probably know someone who is involved with the coal mining industry. For as many as 200 years, workers have been mining the state's rich coal reserves. While coal mining is a notoriously dangerous industry, safety regulations have dramatically decreased the number of fatal mining accidents. Like any other workplace, however, safety regulations for coal mines are only effective where management and all of the workers make safety a priority.

Recently, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released its findings regarding a fatal accident that occurred earlier in the year at a West Virginia coal mine. The accident happened when a scoop vehicle struck and killed a 44-year-old worker who was shoveling debris near the vehicle. The MSHA report stated that the operator of the scooper could not see the victim because of supplies that were stacked on top of the vehicle.

This incident was, apparently, not the first time that supplies were stored on top of a mine vehicle. State authorities had noted similar safety problems during prior inspections. Likewise, federal inspectors had previously warned the mining company that its workers must take additional safety steps regarding operation of the underground vehicles.

Following the fatal workplace accident, the MHSA explained that the mine's vehicles should be equipped with systems that can detect when a vehicle is dangerously close to a worker.

In this case, it is unclear whether the mining company violated any safety regulations. Nonetheless, the MHSA report indicates that that the company was not doing all that it could have reasonably done to ensure the safety of the mine workers. Accordingly, the family of the 44-year-old victim may have legal options including a wrongful death lawsuit. No legal remedy can bring a loved one back, but compensation for damages, including loss of companionship, can help families move forward.

Source: The Charleston Gazette, "Blocked view in mine car blamed for coal fatality," Ken Ward, Jr., Aug. 2, 2013.

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