CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Cecil E. Roberts, International President of United Mine Workers Association, sent a letter to David Zatezalo, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, asking the Mine Safety and Health Administration for an immediate emergency standard that would increase protections for miners working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, Roberts said that mining is unique in that miners work in close proximity and many miners are older and suffer from health conditions like pneumoconiosis, heart disease, and compromised immune systems.
“These miners are considered ‘high risk’ and are often located in rural areas that do not provide the same access to healthcare centers as workers in urban areas,” said Roberts in the letter, “This makes miners one of the most vulnerable populations for the virus.”
Roberts goes on to say that UMWA has been working with local unions and operators to set up their own precautions, such as additional disinfectant and limiting the number of miners traveling up and down the elevators, but he emphasizes that he would like to see these practices become more uniform.
Roberts also said that miners need four specific things:
- Access to obtain at least N-95 respirators
- Policies and procedures in place for disinfecting equipment between shifts and when changing operators
- Extra PPE available for pulling cables, touching shared equipment, and handling materials that may have been contacted by infected persons
- Bathhouse and gathering place disinfectant strategies.
“Miners are a resilient people and have overcome many challenges throughout time,” said Roberts, “This will be yet another situation where we will overcome, protecting our miners, their families, their communities, and allow them to continue to provide these valuable resources when our nation needs them most,”