Coal mining has always had the reputation of being one of the most dangerous lines of work. However, thanks to legislation that Congress passed, the number of fatalities on the job has steadily decreased. Minnesota employers can take some lessons from the coal mining industry when it comes to protecting their workers, especially during the time of COVID-19.
After several high-profile mining disasters, Congress reformed the coal mining industry. One of the important measures that have been taken was to increase the number of safety inspectors. Now, coal miners also have the ability to refuse work assignments if they believe it to be dangerous without having to fear repercussions from supervisors. American workers only have the right to refuse work if they believe that there is imminent danger or risk of death. This is important during COVID-19 because many companies have been able to threaten workers if they do not show up for work out of fear of contracting the virus.
In general, OSHA enforcement and safety efforts have declined since 2016. The agency is undertaking fewer efforts to keep workers safe. Budgets are down, and the agency is understaffed at key levels. Over three million workers are injured on the job each year, many because there are dangerous conditions at their workplace. Labor leaders claim that mismanagement of OSHA contributes to a deterioration of the working conditions.
Workers who are injured on the job are not able to sue their employer in most cases. Instead, they can file a claim to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. This will replace the wages that they lost and pay their medical bills. They should retain a workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about how they can file a claim. The attorney could assist them in documenting their claim and at a possible hearing.