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Mining industry stalling efforts to increase workplace safety

In 2010, a beloved husband, father and community member was killed in a preventable work accident. As a mechanic for an open-mining operation, he was often in his work truck. Unfortunately, he was in his parked vehicle when a large haul truck ran over top of it, crushing him. Missouri is home to several mining companies and any efforts to improve workplace safety would benefit workers here and elsewhere.

Since 1998, the Mining Safety and Health Administration has mulled regulations that would require heavy machinery to include collision prevention warning systems. Vehicles such as the 240-ton haul trucks cost upwards of $1 million and can be operated for decades. This high cost makes most companies reluctant to replace them for newer vehicles with advanced technology. The problem with these machines is an extensive blind spot that can lead to serious crashes due to a driver's inability to see obstacles in the vehicle's path.

While it is possible to retrofit these machines with tools to increase their safe operation, mining companies have thus far resisted efforts to require these tools. Some companies that manufacture these vehicles claim that the potential malfunctions negate the safety benefits. Mining companies assert that the safety of workers is the top priority and they are working to ensure that this issue is addressed without the need for additional regulation.

A presentation on the need for improved safety illustrated the difference between a driver's view and the actual presence of other vehicles and personnel that are in the machinery's blind spots. There have been a number of fatal accidents both in open and underground mines involving large vehicles that may have been prevented with warning systems. It is unclear whether the agencies tasked with improving workplace safety for miners will pursue additional regulations in the coming year. Missouri workers who are seriously injured in a work-related accident may seek assistance in filing claims for maximum benefits through workers' compensation insurance.

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