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Safety efforts to be stepped up in mines

Safety at mining facilities in Oklahoma and around the country is the responsibility of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and representatives of the federal agency say that inspection and enforcement efforts will be stepped up following the deaths of three mine workers on Aug. 3. A plant operator in Virginia was killed when a silo split open, a Nevada miner lost his life after being struck by equipment and a North Dakota mine worker perished after being engulfed by a stockpile.

According to an MSHA representative, the last time that three mine workers lost their lives in workplace accidents on the same day was in 2002. Accident data reveals that 29 workers were killed in mining and quarrying accidents in 2014, but regulators say that five such deaths were recently recorded in a single month. Efforts to improve worker safety include increasing the number of inspections and focusing them on safety issues known to contribute to fatal accidents. Inspectors will also talk to miners and mine operators to identify gaps in safety measures.

Records indicate that the Virginia quarry where the plant operator died had been cited for safety violations on more than one occasion by the MSHA during the past six months. The first citation was given for allowing a walkway to become partially covered by rocks, and the operator of a large truck was cited for failing to check the vehicle's emergency steering system.

Mine workers may be eligible to seek benefits under their employer's workers' compensation insurance if they are injured in a workplace accident or develop a work-related illness. While the process is not designed to be adversarial, employers or their insurers will sometimes dispute or deny a claim. An attorney with experience in this area could represent injured or sick workers in subsequent hearings when this occurs.

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