Legislator Talks About Mine Safety

FRANKFORT - Although news reports indicate that many of the mine safety measures passed in other states and at the national level in the wake of recent mine disasters have yet to be implemented, a look at the Commonwealth's new mine safety law indicates that many of its requirements are in force in Kentucky mines, said Senator Ray Jones, D-Pikeville.

"I'm pleased that many of the important changes called for in our new mine safety law are already in place," said Jones, who was one of the authors of the legislation. Jones recently asked legislative staff members to check on the status of the law, which passed in the 2006 session and went into effect July 12. "Obviously, it doesn't do any good to change the law if the changes are not implemented underground," Jones said.

Kentucky does share the problems other mining states are having in providing additional self-contained, self-rescue devices, as mandated by the new laws. Although Kentucky mines have ordered the safety equipment, there is a backlog because of the increased demand across the country. Kentucky's new law requires that additional caches of the devices be readily accessible in main escape-ways, with attached reflective signage and strobe lights.

In addition, some changes, such as the filing of emergency action plans, ventilation plans, or increased annual inspections, were scheduled to begin later this year or are tied to the 2007 licensing process.

Changes that are in place as a result of the new Kentucky law include:
• Installation of two-way communication facilities extending from the surface to the working section of a mine.
• Many new safety reporting requirements and new procedures to follow in the event of an accident.
• Posting of maps and regular escape-way drills.
• Establishment of a Mine Equipment Review Panel to ensure safety requirements stay abreast of technological innovations.
• Whistleblower protection for miners who report unsafe working condition.

Jones, the grandson of a union coal miner, said there are more improvements to mine safety he plans to pursue, particularly a requirement for underground refuge stations. Refuge stations protect miners from toxic smoke that often fills the tunnels in a fire or explosion. The stations are equipped with supplies of oxygen, food, water and medical supplies.

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