In 2016, coal mining deaths hit a record low with eight being reported. In 2017, there were 15 deaths at coal mines, and 8 of those deaths occurred in West Virginia mines. Other states to report deaths included Kentucky and Alabama. Many of these deaths occurred before a new head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration was appointed in September.
While the number of miner deaths increased from 2016 to 2017, the number is still low by historical standards. In 1966, there were 233 deaths of miners and related workers while there were more than 2,000 deaths 100 years prior. The 2017 total was the fourth consecutive year that the number of mining-related deaths in the U.S. has been lower than 20. West Virginia has seen the highest number of miner deaths in six of the past eight years.
There are many explanations given for the reduction in miner deaths in recent years, including tougher enforcement of MSHA rules. Fewer people working in the industry has also been cited as a factor. In 2016, there were roughly 52,000 in the coal mining field compared to roughly 92,000 in 2011.
Coal and other miners may face hazards such as gas explosions or exposure to harmful particles in the air. Cave-ins or similar events may also occur. Those who are get hurt or sick because of dangers faced while on the job may be entitled to compensation for their injuries or the effects of their illness. This may include payment of medical bills or other related expenses in addition to compensation for lost wages or lost future earnings because of employer negligence.