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3 coal mine deaths in 3 days: A cost of the shutdown?

It may be hard to pin down clear indicators of the effects the government shutdown is having on the country. There have been attempts in the media to highlight possible repercussions. But in some respects the stories have failed to stand out. They seem to be just a few more trees making up the forest.

There is one that did catch our eye this week, though -- three deaths of coal miners in three consecutive days this past weekend. They each happened in states other than Pennsylvania, but they could have happened here.

No one is specifically attributing the deaths in West Virginia, Illinois and Wyoming to the shutdown. But officials of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration acknowledge that inspection routines followed during regular MHSA operations have been scaled back. Only mines identified as having a history of workplace safety issues are getting targeted inspections.

The string of worker deaths also prompted the Obama administration to call on the entire coal mining industry to step up its efforts in regard to compliance and safety. That's a call that has been picked up by the National Mining Association. A statement issued by the trade group reinforced that even if government workers are on furlough, operators' obligations in the area of maintaining worker safety remain in force.

The first of the most recent deaths occurred Friday in West Virginia. A 62-year-old miner died when he was hit in the head by a chain. Saturday, a 47-year-old man died in Illinois when he was pinned under a cart. The third miner, a 2-year veteran of the job, died Sunday in Wyoming when a bulldozer he was running went off a 150-foot wall.

Just as injuries on the job warrant claims for workers' compensation benefits, so do work-related injuries that result in the death of a worker. Obtaining full coverage isn't always as easy as simply filing the paperwork. Sometimes an attorney's help is required.

Source: WVGazette.com, "MSHA: Three mining deaths 'extremely troubling'," Ken Ward Jr., Oct. 7, 2013

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