Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, announced that he has backed comprehensive mine safety legislation that would strengthen whistleblower protections and increase penalties for those who knowingly violate mine safety laws. The bill, The Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act, specifically takes into account the investigations and reports on the Upper Big Branch tragedy, and incorporates provisions which families of the victims have said they are looking for.
"This legislation will take commonsense steps to better protect our state's miners. Congress should act in a bipartisan fashion to get this proposal to the President's desk before we lose another miner," Senator Casey said. "Our miners undertake significant risk every day. We owe these miners basic workplace safety protections which is what this bill will provide."
Senator Casey is co-sponsoring this legislation with Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Since the Upper Big Branch tragedy in 2010, both Congress and the Administration have enacted some laws and regulations to improve the health and safety of coal miners. However, comprehensive legislation is still required to achieve mining safety improvements, including those specifically recommended by miners' families and by investigations into the Upper Big Branch disaster.
Summary of the Mine Safety Bill:
The Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act specifically takes into account the investigations and reports on the Upper Big Branch tragedy, and incorporates provisions which families of the victims have said they are looking for. Among other things, the bill would:
*Strengthen whistleblower protections for miners who speak out about unsafe conditions
*Increase maximum criminal penalties for those who knowingly violate mine safety standards
*Give MSHA expanded authority to subpoena documents and testimony
*Prohibit mine operators from keeping two sets of books
*Limit miners' exposure to Black Lung disease