US Senate urged to consider new mine safety principles

A safety expert for the US coal industry has told a Senate oversight panel that the best way to continue the safety progress achieved in underground coal mines is by adopting a package of safety principles that would drive practical and timely improvements in mine safety. Michael Peelish, Senior VP for Safety and Human Resources at Foundation Coal, said these principles include: expedited approval of communications and tracking technologies, mandatory substance abuse testing of all mining personnel, enhanced emergency notification and mine rescue capabilities, shielding rescue activities from legal liability, and providing tax incentives to help companies invest in new equipment and training needed for enhanced safety performance.

Peelish testified before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on behalf of the National Mining Association, the industry’s national trade group.

The regulatory and enforcement of underground coal mines also should reflect new realities in coal mining, said Peelish. Among the most constructive steps, he said, would be for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to streamline its inspection approach by targeting conditions or practices that are known to contribute to injuries and illness. Peelish said a more flexible approach that rewards good safety stewardship would better concentrate finite enforcement resources on improving safety performance.