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Twenty-three coal miners lost certifications after random drug tests

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In its first two months of implementation, 23 state coal miners have had their miners' certificates revoked after failing random drug testing, Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training Director Eugene White told the House Finance Committee Monday.

Part of the mine safety legislation enacted last March, the law requires the office to oversee random drug testing of miners, and to suspend miners' certificates for those who test positive for illicit drugs.

That provision went into effect Jan. 1, and to date, 23 miners have lost their certificates because of failing the drug screenings, White said.

He said it's impossible to project how many miners will lose state certificates. However, he said a similar program in Kentucky resulted in 1,500 miners losing certification in the first three years of random drug testing.

"We're looking at random testing 25 percent [of miners] annually," White said, adding, "We feel it's going to be a big workload on us."

White said the office has interpreted the law to apply to employed miners and not to pre-employment testing of applicants for mining positions.

"If a guy isn't working for a company, how can we take his certificate if he isn't an employee?" White commented.

Also during the Commerce Department budget hearing Monday:

| Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said the governor is requesting a $1 million supplemental appropriation for the Division of Natural Resources to help operate a State Parks system hard hit by two major storms, and by scaled-back operations at Canaan Valley Resort.

"This supplemental request is very time-sensitive," said Burdette, noting that the parks system was hard-hit by the derecho in June, and by the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in October.

Additionally, Canaan Valley has been operating at about half its normal capacity during construction of a new $24 million lodge for the ski resort, he said.

| He said the state Development Office should save about $100,000 a year by using transitional office space for the one-person European trade office, rather than renting office space in Munich, Germany.

"People typically do not come to see us in these offices. We go out to see them," he said. The Development Office also has an Asian trade office in Nagoya, Japan.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

 


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