May 13, 2020

Manchin, Durbin, Kaine, Brown, Casey, Capito, Warner Introduce Bill To Protect Miners From COVID-19 Exposure

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act which would require the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within 7 days of enactment to protect our miners from COVID-19 exposure at the mines. Additionally, the bill would forbid mine operators from retaliating against miners for reporting infection control problems to their employer or any public authority. Additional information on the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act can be found here.

“Our miners risk their lives every day to power our nation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that risk is even greater for our brave miners. On April 17, my colleagues and I sent a letter to President Trump asking for MSHA to implement these safety standards, but they have yet to act to protect our miners,” said Senator Manchin. “I introduced the bipartisan COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act to ensure that our miners are protected from exposure to COVID-19 in the mines. This commonsense legislation will help our miners stay safe during this pandemic while they continue to provide Americans with the power they need every day and especially when so many Americans are spending extended amounts of time at home. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as well as MSHA and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to pass this legislation and protect our miners during this pandemic.”

“Thousands of mineworkers in Illinois work in difficult and dangerous conditions, and the COVID-19 crisis only heightens the need for stronger worker protections for these miners,” said Senator Durbin. “With workers sharing tight quarters during long shifts, it’s vital that the Mine Safety & Health Administration issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to limit miners’ exposure to COVID-19 and ensure that miners can earn a living without further endangering themselves or their families.”

“Our nation’s coal miners work tirelessly – often in dangerous conditions – to power our communities. Now more than ever, we must help ensure they can stay safe on the job,” said Senator Kaine.

“Ohio miners have put their health at risk for years to power our country,” said Senator Brown. “And now they’re facing more danger, as working conditions put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. MSHA needs to issue an enforceable safety standard to protect these miners from infectious disease, and we need to ensure these workers have the personal protective equipment they need to prevent exposure.”

“Some Americans can safely stay home and practice social distancing, but our Nation’s coal miners are bravely going to work every day to continue powering our country,” said Senator Casey. “The bipartisan COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would put in place enforceable workplace safety standards to protect miners from COVID-19 on the job and would make clear that miners cannot be retaliated against for reporting health and safety concerns related to COVID-19.”

“West Virginia miners continue to work day in and day out to power our country,” Senator Capito said. “Making sure they are protected and as safe as possible in their job is absolutely critical, especially during COVID-19.”

“As our coal miners continue to do their job to keep the lights on in our communities amid this health crisis, we’ve got to make sure that they have the support they need to stay safe in this pandemic. On the job, miners often have to work in close quarters with their colleagues, which puts them at greater risk of exposure to COVD-19. That’s why we must make sure their health and safety is being prioritized, and adequate protections are put in place to protect these essential workers while on the clock,” said Senator Warner.

“An underground environment is unlike any other workplace there is,” United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “It can easily become a hot spot for COVID-19. Miners breathe the same circulated air no matter where they are in the mine. They frequently must work in close quarters. They ride to and from their specific work stations underground in elevators and mantrips that put them in close proximity to one another. They change into and out of their work clothes side by side before and after their shifts. We have asked MSHA to develop emergency standards to protect miners, but so far the agency has taken no action. We very much appreciate this bipartisan group of Senators for stepping up to support the more than 200,000 miners of all kinds in this nation. They need consistent, enforceable protection on the job just like every other essential worker.”

The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would require MSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, based on CDC, NIOSH, and OSHA guidance, within 7 days of enactment to protect our miners from COVID-19 exposure at the mines. The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act would also:

  • Require mine operators to provide personal protective equipment to miners;
  • Require MSHA to issue a permanent comprehensive infectious disease standard within two years;
  • Require MSHA to forbid employers from retaliating against miners for reporting infection control problems to their employer, or to local, State, or Federal government agencies; and,
  • Require MSHA, in coordination with CDC and NIOSH, to track, analyze, and investigate mine-related COVID-19 infections data in order make recommendations and guidance to protect miners from the virus.

Bill text can be found here.

 

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