CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of a state board on Tuesday again delayed any action on a proposal that could end a common type of coal-mining accident in which workers are hurt or killed when they are crushed by a piece of underground equipment.
The state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety discussed the proposal to require all underground mine operators to install "proximity detection" systems to shut off mining equipment when it gets too close to workers.
But board members agreed, without a formal vote, not to act until they find out more about the timeline for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to finalize a nationwide rule on the matter.
Five years ago, a team of state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training urged West Virginia officials to mandate proximity detection equipment, but the state has never acted on the recommendation. The recommendation, revealed in records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, was the subject of a Sunday Gazette-Mail story late last month.
Board members have in recent months reviewed several reports about West Virginia miners killed when they were crushed or pinned by underground mining equipment.
During a meeting in Charleston on Tuesday morning, board member and United Mine Workers representative Carl Egnor referenced one of those deaths and suggested the board should do something.
"I think it's time this board moved on that," Egnor said.
Another UMW representative on the board, Gary Trout, said that "the technology is there" to prevent crushing and pinning deaths.
Chris Hamilton, a West Virginia Coal Association board representative, said that the state should be looking not just at proximity devices, but also at cameras that help improve blind-spot visibility and at strobe lights and fluorescent clothing.
Gary Trout, a UMW representative on the board, said proximity detection systems that automatically turn off mining equipment are better than cameras, because cameras still require miners to take action quickly to avoid accidents.