Today's News / Compliance

Recent legal decisions reaffirm miners’ rights to raise health, safety concerns

July 12, 2012
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

miningTwo recent decisions by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission have affirmed the legal rights of miners to be protected against discrimination in the workplace, according to MSHA head Joseph Main.

In the first case, an administrative law judge with the review commission ordered Cumberland River Coal Co. to reinstate a coal miner to his former job and pay a civil penalty of $30,000 -- $10,000 more than the amount originally proposed by the Secretary of Labor.

Charles Howard, who worked at Band Mill No. 2 Mine in Letcher County, Ky., suffered head injuries on the job in June 2010 and was discharged almost immediately upon his return the following May, despite the fact that his physician cleared him to work. Instead, Cumberland River Coal Co. sought the opinion of a different doctor, who determined that Howard could not return to work.

 “There is no suggestion that Howard was terminated due to poor work performance and there was no incident that would have justified his termination,” wrote Administrative Law Judge Margaret A. Miller. “The only difficulty that [the mine operator] had with Howard was the fact that he continued to make safety complaints and continued to contact MSHA. Finally, not only was there open hostility against Howard, he was treated differently than other miners who had suffered a work-related injury.”

In the second case, the review commission affirmed an order of temporary reinstatement of a miner who worked at Mammoth Coal Processing Plant and River Tipple in Kanawha County, W.Va. An employee at the plant since 1975, Robert Nickoson was also a miners’ representative, which allowed him to accompany an MSHA inspector during inspections. In a June 2010 inspection, Nickoson, who was also accompanied by a Mammoth representative, pointed out several pieces of equipment in disrepair.  This action resulted in the issuance of several violations to the mine operator. 

In January 2012, the company suspended him for five days over a dispute about time used for an emergency medical procedure.  When Nikoson went back to the mine for a “return to work” meeting, he was informed that he was being terminated due to “insubordinate and unprofessional conduct” at a prior safety meeting.

“Miners must be able to freely address health and safety concerns in the workplace,” commented Main. “If a miner is denied the right to participate in safeguarding health and safety, it puts at risk not only his safety, but the safety of his fellow miners.”

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

ASSE's Safety 2013 Review

A photo gallery from the Las Vegas Convention Center, where ASSE’s annual professional development conference was held June 24 to 27. All photos courtesy of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

ISHN Magazine

ishn april 2014 issue cover

2014 April

In this month's issue of ISHN, check out features about safety in the oil and gas industry.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE ISHN STORE

M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2014

ISHN0114_FDO_cov.jpgFor Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. CHECK OUT THEJANUAYR 2014 ISSUE OF FDO HERE

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.