West Virginia mine safety officials had at one point hoped to be far ahead of MSHA in taking action. But despite a September 2008 recommendation from a group of top state inspectors, no new state rules have ever been finalized.
Last month, industry and United Mine Workers representatives to the board had put on the agenda for this week competing proposals. The UMW had urged faster action and a rule covering more types of underground equipment, while the industry wanted more time and a more limited scope of equipment.
Under state law, the board generally writes West Virginia's mine safety and health rules. The separate Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training inspects mines and enforces the board's rules. The governor appoints members of the six-person board, with three members from industry and three from labor.
During Thursday's meeting in Flatwoods, United Mine Workers board representative Gary Trout moved that the board create a subcommittee that would examine all of the pending proposals.
Initially, board member Chris Hamilton, a vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, opposed the idea.
Hamilton said that the UMW's version of a rule had already been voted down -- in a 3-3 split between industry and labor -- and therefore could not be revisited unless one of the industry representatives reconsidered their original vote.
UMW members argued that Trout's proposal this time was different, and Hamilton eventually relented.
Hamilton repeated his early request that the board look not just at proximity devices, but also at cameras, strobe lights, additional equipment inspections and other steps that could prevent crushing and pinning accidents.
"I still maintain that the issue requires a broad approach rather than just considering the one aspect," Hamilton said.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.