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You Shouldn't Have To Fight For Workers' Comp Benefits

Fatal coal plant accident earns company federal safety citations

Pennsylvania, like many states graced by the mountain ranges of the eastern U.S., is no stranger to heavy industry and the accidents that can result when safety and care are overlooked. There are a lot of state and federal regulations in place aimed at trying to make the work environment safe and thus avoid workplace accidents.

Unfortunately, laws and even some basic common sense safety rules often get overlooked and regulators are only able to take action after the fact. The hope is that by issuing a citation, and perhaps levying a financial penalty, it will somehow inspire employers to take better precautions in the future. But the action comes too late for workers hurt on the job, or worse, killed.

This comes to mind in light of a story from the coal mining region of West Virginia. A 57-year-old veteran of mining fell three stories to his death back in May at a facility in the town of Uneeda. According to investigators with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, the man was up a ladder getting ready to use a cutting torch as part of an effort to remove a 12-inch steel beam at the coal preparation plant.

An official report about the incident cites the company, Alpha Natural Resources, for failing to make sure that equipment was safe to use and being used in a safe manner. Specifically, it said that the ladder the victim was on was being used incorrectly, contrary to manufacturer's recommendations and under the direct supervision of a company foreman.

The company has been cited for improper ladder use, failing to provide a safe method to perform the task required and not seeing to it that the worker involved was wearing a safety belt and line. What isn't mentioned in any of the reports is whether there is any monetary penalty attached to the citations. The company says it hasn't decided whether to appeal the findings.

Workers who suffer accidents on the job need to be aware that they have rights to compensation in the event of injury. In cases of death, there may be additional benefits to pursue. Contacting an experienced attorney can offer assurance that the maximum benefits will be obtained.

Source: The Charleston Gazette, "Alpha Cited in prep plant death," Ken Ward Jr., Dec. 12, 2012

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