TRIANGLE, VA (WOAY) – United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts yesterday sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo, calling for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to issue a “safeguard,” or emergency standard, which would increase protections for miners working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While these are certainly difficult times for all workers, it is especially challenging for workers who are unable to work from home and have valid concerns about their health and safety and that of their loved ones,” Roberts said in the letter. “Our miners work in close proximity to one another from the time they arrive at the mine site. They get dressed, travel down the elevator together, ride in the same man trip, work in confined spaces, breathe the same air, operate the same equipment, and use the same shower facilities.”
Roberts noted that the coronavirus is of special concern for those miners who have impaired lung function due to Black Lung. “Many miners are also older and suffer from various underlying health conditions such as pneumoconiosis, which the UMWA believes will greatly exacerbate the severity of the symptoms related to COVID-19,” Roberts said. “These miners are considered ‘high risk’ and are often located in rural areas that do not provide the same access to health care centers as workers in urban areas,” Roberts said. “This makes miners one of the most vulnerable populations for the virus.”
Roberts asked that MSHA “immediately issue safeguard/emergency standards to protect the most valuable resource in the mine – — the miner. The UMWA stands ready to work with MSHA, the mining industry, and our members to find ways to protect miners in these unprecedented times. Miners are a resilient people and have overcome many challenges throughout time. 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.”
Roberts’ letter to Zatezalo can be viewed here.