Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Fletcher, Key Legislators Launch Mine Safety Initative

Press Release Date:  Friday, February 17, 2006  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker
Troy Body

Mark York

Bipartisan effort unveiled

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Governor Ernie Fletcher and key legislators from both political parties and chambers today unveiled a comprehensive mine safety improvement plan. He urged lawmakers to review and quickly pass the legislation.

“This legislation and the substance abuse bill introduced earlier this week are the result of bipartisan efforts—our administration and Senate and House members working in a cooperative fashion,” said Governor Fletcher.  “These mine safety proposals should set the standard in new mine safety legislation.”

“The bill gives the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet greater authority to prosecute violators and to assess penalties for some of the more serious violations,” said Cabinet Secretary LaJuana S. Wilcher. “It’s the authority we need to do our job more effectively.”

“As a former miner, I firmly believe these improvements will get results and protect our most valuable resource—our miners,” said Rep. Robin Webb (D-Grayson) House sponsor of both the mine safety and substance abuse bills. “Our miners deserve to work in the safest environment we can provide.”

Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) will co-sponsor the companion bill along with Sen. Ray Jones (D-Pikeville).

“The mine safety bill includes improved communications provisions, emergency action plans and self-rescuer devices,” said Sen. Stivers. “It’s the next step in improving mine safety.”

“Failure to report an accident delays rescue opportunities and puts miners at increased risk,” said Sen. Jones. “This bill imposes stiff penalties for companies that fail to comply with these reporting requirements.”

Key provisions of the bill:

  • A requirement for two-way phone or communication devices between underground working areas and surface facilities.
  • All licensed facilities must have emergency action plans, emergency evacuation and firefighting plans.
  • Maps showing escape routes must be posted at the mine surface and in working sections of the mine.
  • Escape drills must be conducted for all miners every 90 days and for limited groups every six weeks.
  • Authority for the commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources (DNR) to assess civil penalties directly against mines for violations of roof control and ventilation plans.
  • Authority for DNR to write regulations prescribing new criteria for the Mine Safety Review Commission to impose penalties on parties for violation of mine safety laws.
  • A requirement for caches of self-rescuer devices in escape ways at intervals to require no more than 45 minutes travel between mine sections, caches and the surface.
  • A requirement to report accidents within 15 minutes of actual knowledge and imposition of sanctions from $10,000 to $100,000 for failure to report accidents.
  • Job protection for miners from termination for documenting or reporting unsafe working conditions. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Rep. Webb introduced the substance-abuse testing bill, House Bill 572, to which Governor Fletcher alluded. If enacted, it would mandate testing for all miners. Some coal companies now require testing as a matter of policy.