Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Bill for drug, alcohol testing of coal miners wins unanimous approval of Senate committee
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 16, 2006) - Bipartisan legislation that would make Kentucky the first coal-mining state to require drug and alcohol testing for miners moved a step closer to passage today, winning unanimous approval from the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The committee vote was 9-0 on House Bill 572, which the Kentucky House passed unanimously, 98-0, on March 8. The bill is part of Governor Ernie Fletcher’s legislative plan for increasing safety in Kentucky coal mines.
"Miners must work as a team to be safe and effective," Governor Fletcher said. "It is critical for every miner to be aware and alert at all times while at the mine. This bill helps provide the necessary protection all of our miners so rightly deserve."
HB 572 reflects recommendations of a task force that held public hearings last year on the issue of drug and alcohol use among miners. The bill would require prospective miners applying for certification by the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing to be tested to verify that they are free of drugs and alcohol. Miners also could be tested after a serious accident, as could those working in the immediate area of an accident or who may have witnessed or contributed to an accident.
The primary sponsor of HB 572, Rep. Robin Webb (D-Grayson), said the bill encourages assistance to miners who fail drug tests.
"There is an incentive for companies to implement employee assistance programs and receive a credit on their workers' compensation insurance coverage," said Webb, herself a former miner. "We hope companies will take advantage of this incentive to offer an assistance program."
LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, said miner safety is a priority of the cabinet and the Fletcher administration. "Mining is an important part of Kentucky’s economy but also is inherently hazardous. Miners impaired by drugs or alcohol pose a danger to themselves and to their fellow miners," Wilcher said.