If you’re a Montana coal miner, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the legendary Smith Mine Disaster, which killed 74 miners in 1943. If you live near Bearcreek or know someone who was affected, the thought might still send chills down your spine.
Smith Mine was an extreme and usual situation, but the reality is that mining is still one of the most dangerous professions.
More than half of all coal mining workers are in Bituminous coal underground mining, and the industry experiences more occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities than other segments of the coal mining industry. The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 24.8 fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 coal mine workers in 2007.
Review the chart below to see how numbers of total coal miners and fatalities have changed in the past few decades:
|Coal Mining Fatalities|
|Year||Number of Total Miners||Fatalities|
|Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration|
What makes coal mining so hazardous? Often, miners are working with heavy equipment in small spaces underground. Fires and explosions are also a constant threat to safety.
There are certain types of accidents that are prevalent in the mining industry. They include:
Since the accidents that happen in coal mines tend to be severe, the resulting injuries can be long-lasting and catastrophic:
Below, we have numbers on the specific kinds of injuries in coal mining over the past few years:
Mining Industry Fatalities by Type and Year
UG = Underground
|Exploding vessels under pressure||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Exp & breaking agents||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Fall of face/rib/highwall||2||0||2||0||0||1||1||0||0||0|
|Fall of roof or back||2||0||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ignition/explosion of gas/dust||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Slip/fall of person||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1|
|Step/kneel on object||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Striking or bumping||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Year to date totals||6||5||4||3||3||5||3||3||2||3|
|Combined year-end totals||11||7||8||6||5 (as of 3/3/19)|
|Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)|
In addition to the possibility of a single-occurrence accident, coal miners face health risks from exposure to a variety of environmental hazards.
Every employer in Montana is required to have workers’ compensation insurance. If you’ve been injured or if you lost a loved one in a coal mining accident, it’s important to file a claim immediately. In Montana, you’re required to notify the employer within 30 days of an accident or following diagnosis of an occupational illness. You only have one year to file a workers’ comp claim with the insurer.
If you’re unsure of what to claim, how much you need in benefits, or what your rights are, you can contact a Montana personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney will help you through the process of recovering benefits to cover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, and death benefits for survivors in the event of a tragic coal mining accident or injury.