January 26, 2011

Rockefeller, Murray, Harkin, Manchin Introduce the Robert C. Byrd Mine And Workplace Safety and Health Act

Washington, D.C.—Senators Jay Rockefeller, Tom Harkin (D- Iowa), Patty Murray (D- Wash.) and Joe Manchin III (D- W.Va.) introduced mine safety legislation to promote a culture of safety in mining and other industries.

Senator Rockefeller has been a longtime proponent of strengthening workplace safety regulations and initially introduced the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act in the summer of 2010. The legislation is a first step to making sure that miners in West Virginia and employees across the country can go to work each and every day without fearing for their safety.  It also serves as a tribute to all miners who have lost their lives in a workplace tragedy.
“Last year, our nation experienced the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years when an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia took the lives of 29 miners,” said Rockefeller. “This tragedy and too many other workplace accidents around the country serve as stark reminders of the need to make sure that all workers can return home to their loved ones at the end of the day.” 
Rockefeller continued, “Before his death, Senator Byrd and I worked together to develop the beginnings of this workplace safety legislation—which includes significant improvements for our coal mines. We absolutely must fix the process for safety enforcement at mines with repeated violations, provide MSHA with strong safety tools and hold them more accountable, and protect our dedicated miners who speak up when they know safety measures aren’t being handled correctly. We must do everything in our power to make sure that miners across West Virginia and across the nation have better protections as they work to power the nation.”
“The terrible events at Upper Big Branch were only the worst example of the serious safety problems that plague our nation’s mines.  Seventy one miners were killed on the job last year and countless others injured – that’s unacceptable,” said Harkin.  “We now know that the Upper Big Branch tragedy was preventable and that, if our laws were working properly, all miners would be able to come home safely to their families each day.   We can’t afford to wait any longer for our broken mine safety laws to be fixed.  I hope I can work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this important issue, and I am proud to join Senators Rockefeller, Murray, and Manchin in taking this first step and laying out our vision for safer mines.”  
“Workers in every industry should be able to feel confident that while they work hard and do their jobs, their employers are doing everything they can to keep them safe,” said Senator Patty Murray. “We were reminded of the tragic consequences of workplace accidents far too often last year at sites ranging from mines, to oil rigs, to refineries. This legislation is a strong step in the right direction. And I am going to keep working to make sure workers in all industries are protected.”
“Our hearts are still broken over the tragedy at Upper Big Branch mine last year.  The tragic deaths of hardworking miners serve as a constant reminder of the need for mine safety measures that are strong and effective,” Manchin said. “In West Virginia, mining is a way of life, and an important part of our livelihoods. We must continue to provide energy to our nation in a way that protects the courageous people who work in the mines. We need to continue to make improvements to mine safety so that miners are not in jeopardy. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this very important piece of legislation.”
LINK to Legislative Summary