Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Fight for Coal Miners

There are approximately 83,000 coal miners working in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). These workers are part of an industry that has become safer in recent years; in 2018, there were 27 mining fatalities, the second lowest number ever recorded.

However, despite improvements in safety equipment and practices, miners in both surface and underground, metal and nonmetal mines still face several serious job hazards, including:

  • Carbon monoxide: Coal mining often involves the use of explosives that release carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can cause asphyxiation.
  • Coal dust: Inhaling coal dust over time can lead to deadly diseases such as coal miner’s pneumoconiosis, silicosis, and worse.
  • Collapses/cave-ins: Coal mine roof collapses are often catastrophic and can lead to severe injuries and fatalities.
  • Confined spaces: The atmosphere in confined spaces can be hazardous. Also, workers may suffer a struck-by accident in the event of a collapse/cave-in.
  • Crystalline silica dust: This hazardous compound causes inflammation and scarring in the lungs and can cause silicosis, a type of pneumoconiosis.

Coal Miner Injuries and Illnesses

Coal miners are more likely to suffer severe injuries than private industry workers as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An increasing number of coal miners are being diagnosed with black lung disease, progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), and other incurable illnesses due to toxic mine exposures from years earlier.

Some common coal miner injuries and illnesses include:

Black Lung Disease: Also called coal miner’s pneumoconiosis, this respiratory disorder is caused by inhalation of coal dust over time. Lungs become black in color and impaired in function. Symptoms can take up to 20 years or more to appear and may in its advanced form be associated with pulmonary emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or tuberculosis.

Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF): This disease is also called complicated black lung. It is an advanced form of black lung that makes breathing difficult due to large masses that form in the lungs. This incurable respiratory disorder often takes decades to surface.

Silicosis: Crystalline silica dust is formed when materials such as coal, concrete, and rock are cut, drilled, or otherwise disturbed. When inhaled, the small particles attach to the lungs and can cause serious diseases, such as silicosis.

Injuries from blasting accidents: Failure to clear a blast area and inadequate or no blasting shelters are common causes of injuries from blasting accidents. Flying rock that is propelled beyond the blast area can also cause serious injuries or fatalities.

Workers’ Compensation for Injured Coal Miners

In Pennsylvania, coal miners are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits including payments for medical expenses and lost wages. Coal miners who were totally disabled from pneumoconiosis may also file a claim under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act), which provides monthly payments and medical benefits to injured coal miners and fatally injured miners’ survivors.

The family members of coal miners who die from black lung disease, pneumoconiosis, or other related lung diseases, may be eligible for death benefits, and additional benefits may be available for dependent family members.

To receive benefits under the Act, an application form must be submitted to the Office of Workers’ Compensation, Division of Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation, along with the relevant medical information and evidence. An experienced worker’s compensation lawyer can help to ensure workers’ rights are protected and they receive the maximum compensation available.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Coal Miners and Their Families Obtain the Compensation to Which They Are Entitled

If you were injured in the mines or are suffering from a work-related illness, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Our experienced lawyers have helped all types of workers, including coal miners, collect benefits for over 40 years. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.

We proudly represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala CynwydBensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.

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Thousands of coal miners have been diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis (PMF), an advanced stage of black lung disease. The epidemic can be traced back to toxic exposures from 20 years ago.

A recent multiyear investigation by National Public Radio (NPR) and the PBS program, Frontline, reveals that government regulators knew about the dangers in the mines and did nothing to stop workers from being exposed.

What is PMF?

PMF, also called complicated black lung, is an incurable respiratory disorder developed from excessive exposure to coal dust, which is often contaminated with silica, an extremely toxic chemical compound. PMF is an advanced stage of black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

Those suffering from it have difficulty breathing and therefore often require a constant supply of oxygen through a tank. Symptoms typically do not appear until 10 to 20 years after exposure. However, in its advanced form symptoms may include pulmonary emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and tuberculosis.

Dust Collection Monitors Reveal Overexposure

NPR reports that there were more than 2,000 coal miners nationwide with advanced black lung disease between 2011 and 2016 – far more than the 99 that were reported by a federal monitoring program for those same years.

According to the NPR/Frontline investigation, government regulators had decades of information recorded by on-site dust collection monitors regarding the excessive mine dust exposures, yet did nothing to protect the coal miners who they knew were likely to become fatally ill.

Upon reviewing the investigation’s findings, a former mine safety regulator admitted that if the appropriate action been taken 20 years ago, the outbreak could have likely been prevented.

Dangers in the Mines

Coal mines present several hazards to workers, including coal dust and silica. Coal often contains quarts, which, when cut, forms fine silica dust particles. When inhaled, silica dust attaches to the lungs, usually remaining there for the duration of a person’s life.

According to an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), silica is approximately 20 times more toxic than coal dust alone, and it can cause coal miners to develop PMF much more rapidly.

Ignored Warnings

There were 21,000 instances of excessive exposure to silica since 1986, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The 30 years of data analyzed by NPR and Frontline during their investigation revealed that coal mines were consistently overlooked by government regulators and mining companies when it came to tougher regulation.

The investigation also uncovered widespread safety violations, including inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as defective dust masks. Of the samples that were collected, 15 percent violated federal health standards for silica levels.

In addition to filing for workers’ compensation, some coal miners have already filed third-party product liability lawsuits against the dust mask suppliers who manufactured the defective products.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Coal Miners Affected by Black Lung Disease

If you were diagnosed with black lung disease, PMF, or another work-related disease, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and/or compensation from a third-party. To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form.

We proudly represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum Lynne, DarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssington, FolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion StationMorton, Narberth, Norristown, NorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect Park, QuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.

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