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areas in which the mine is to be examined before they change shift from one shift to enter the mine to work and the other shift completing its work going to the outside.
The Federal act of 1969 does not provide this, it only says that it has to be done by certified persons. However, I want to bring this to your attention: that the Legislature in considering the bill that yras enacted in 1951 felt that the union's position was that we were trying to acquire more membership into our union by requesting that all of these individuals should be fire bosses that were entitled under the law to make the preshift examination of the mine.
However, that was not the intention of the union. We felt that by the accurate and diligent and proper preshift examination of the mine, determining the conditions in the area in which the men were to work, was a very, very major step toward coal mine safety. He had to examine the fire boss book, he had to examine for ventilation, he had to examine all the seals, he had to examine the active working places, roadways, travelways, haulways that the men have to travel through or work in in order to determine their safety. I would say this is one area in which I think a broader emphasis will have to be placed in the direction of securing greater and more maximum coal mine safety:
Now I will say that there are a lot of hazards that confront coal mining. Naturally we know at any one time what is the principal hazard that eliminates or erases or kills the most men at any one instance and that is coal mine explosions. However, we do know, based on the record, that the contributing factor that kills more coal miners percentagewise is the result of falls of roof, face, and rib which contributes about 65 percent of our fatalities in the coal mines as of the past years. We had incidents that occurred similar to what occurred at the Consolidation No. 9 mine where the entire mine exploded and erased the lives of 78 men.
Senator WILLIAMS. Subcommittee counsel, Mr. Feder, will now proceed with the questioning.
Mr. FEDER. I would like to go back to the question of the fire boss that you raised earlier. This is in the Federal law that was just passed. In section 303 it requires the preshift examination before any shift by a certified person which I think the definition is fairly clear is a certified fire boss.
Are you suggesting that there are now still today the examinations taking place by the fire boss just before the first shift?
Mr. LEEBER. That is just for the first coal producing shift of the workday. That is only being performed, the preshift examination, by what is known as the regular employed fire boss, not by the supervision of management or section foreman who is certified to perform these duties. We feel that these preshift examinations of coal mines are to be conducted exclusively by people who are solely responsible in promoting safety at the mine level not jointly with production.
We find in our experience that where this preshift examination is being made on other shifts by supervisor personnel of the management who are certified to conduct this work or perform these duties it is sort of a-well, I would say they have a dual purpose. Primarily what has been the past experience, production is first and safety is secondary. If they encounter a hazard that should be corrected instead of producing an extra ton of coal, the ton of coal is put ahead of correcting the hazard.
Mr. FEDER. These supervisory personnel are certified by the State?
Mr. LEEBER. Yes, they are. They are also in charge of supervising men in the production area of the mine who are employed as continuous mine operators or machine operators, cutting machine operators, helpers, shuttle car operators, roof bolters, or timbermen—all classifications of labor that are necessary to produce coal.
Mr. FEDER. Isn't there some way that you could get one of your safety committeemen to accompany him?
Mr. LEEBER. I have requested many, many times in my duties as a safety director trying to get an inspector from the U.S. Bureau of Mines or the State department of mines, the coal mining inspector before he closed out his inspection at a particular mine, and he would make a run with all of these preshift examiners for the entire coal mining day to ascertain if they were performing their work as required by law. I had not been successful in having that accomplished. That is the only way you can get a true picture, to determine what type of examination is being made by these mine examiners.
Mr. FEDER. Has that request gone in to the district here?
Mr. FEDER. Has this request gone in to Washington or the Bureau of Mines district here?
Mr. LEEBER. I would say in the past it has applied to both agencies. We have had, I would say, a lot more cooperation from the U.S. Bureau of Mines than we have had from the State department of mines.
Mr. FEDER. It just seems to me the request is a reasonable one and I cannot see why the Federal Bureau of Mines would not agree to do that. Have they given any reason for it?
Mr. LEEBER. Well, the question was that they were limited in personnel. Prior to the 1969 act there was no set time by law as to how often a Federal inspector was to make an inspection of a mine. The Bureau criterion at that time was pure and simple—do it as often as they could. As long as they got an inspection made once a year they felt they were complying with the requirements of the law.
However, the primary intent of the Congress in the mining law that existed prior to 1969 was for the purpose of eliminating entirely what we refer to as mine disasters where possibly three or more men are killed in any one instance. In coal mine sa fety we find that the multiple of these fatalities and injuries occurs in single instances—I don't like to use the word "accident" because I think it is grossly misused too frequently. I would judge it was lack of enforcement of safety requirements or correcting unsafe working conditions and environment.
To continue further, I think the principal thing in the safety of coal mines is to provide the men a safe place in which to work, sa fe tools, and safe equipment at all times, guard against all of the mining hazards that could be created by the production of coal through the cycle that they usually follow during the day's work.
Ventilation is a very important thing. I think the 1969 act provided great improvement over the old statute in respect to ventilation by requesting a minimum of 9,000 cubic feet to the last open crosscut between a set of entries or rooms and in addition providing 3,000 cubic feet of the air circulating the face areas. That is the most
important thing there is, having that air up in the face where the coal is being extracted because there is where your liberation of methane gas usually occurs in the process of the extraction of the coal. If you have got proper ventilation, adequate ventilation to dilute and render this gas harmless and get it in the return airways and get it out of the mine, then you are not confronted with the gas explosion of the coal mine.
The point on preshifting examination of coal mines as I stated before is not being properly conducted in my opinion, in my judg. ment, full compliance with the present State law, not considering the 1969 act. If we had the proper preshift examination of the coal mine, I think it would curtail the fatalities and the injuries that the coal miners suffer by better than 90 percent.
Mr. FEDER. What would happen if the safety committeeman at any given mine, whatever mine it is, would ask to accompany the preshift examiner on every shift?
Mr. LEEBER. I am glad you asked that question because I have been confronted with this problem before. I had a company that took the position that the management of the company, the safety committee, could not accompany an inspector on his tour of an inspection of the mine and, of course, we took the position that they had that right. It was not the prerogative of management to say who could go with the inspector and who could not. It is a customary practice and has been for many years that some person representing management, at least one, accompanies the inspector in making his inspection of the mine.
Mr. FEDER. It is clear under the Federal law now that the safety committeeman can accompany.
Mr. LEEBER. Yes. Under the law they accompany him but prior to that being written into the law it was a question of forcing the management to agree that the safety committee would accompany the inspector in making his tour of inspection of the mine.
Mr. FEDER. What I am trying to get at is where you have this problem of the fire boss making the first preshift examination at any given day, that the second and third shifts the examination is being made by someone else who is a supervisor and you certified that you will still need a supervisor. Why can't your Safety Committeeman demand the right to accompany that man on his preshift examination to make sure that it is being done right?
Mr. LEEBER. Well, the Safety Committees have a right as provided by contract to inspect any part of the mines or equipment or anything and to determine whether they are safe or unsafe. I have never had this question brought up where the Safety Committee wanted to accompany the preshift mine examiner. However, we felt that the inspectors are more familiar with what the requirements of the mining laws are, both Federal and Statewise, and that they in their judgment would probably be better qualified to ascertain whether the preshift examination was conducted properly.
Mr. FEDER. I could not agree with you more but we just had testimony on Friday in Washington by the Bureau of Mines there and they are not going to even conduct the inspections this year that the law requires, so I am sure they are not going to send people down to accompany the preshift examiner.
Mr. LEEBER. What you have here in the preshift examination of coal mines, you have the area in which these examiners are assigned which are too extensive for them to do the job as is required to be done by law in the time limitation period. This time was limited to 3 hours so the area that he is assigned, he can't cover the area and do the job justly in the amount of time that he has to do it within the 3-hour period. As a result it is going to need more preshift examiners conducting this examination for any particular shift in order to just do the job right.
Mr. FEDER. How many working sections do you think the preshift examination can cover in this 3-hour period ?
Mr. LEEBER. Well, my contention is that your preshift examination of the mine should be starting-if it is a shaft mine, it should be starting at the shaft portal; if it is drift mine, start it before you enter the underground or portal of the mine. But what they are doing in practice which is in effect now or it has been for many years is that these preshift examiners enter into some type of a conveyance of transportation, either motor or jeep, and they take right off in the direction of the first working section.
Conveniently they stop whatever the mode of transportation they are using at a given spot and make the examination of the face area and come back to the last crosscut or breakthrough, however you want to refer to it, and go to the next adjacent place and make an inspection. They don't inspect the travelways or haulageways in their entirety. They examine roof conditions, or in fact there is a lot of area in these coal mines which has to be examined within the 3-hour period and they just don't have the personnel to do it with and do it properly in compliance with the mining laws.
Mr. FEDER. Why don't they have the personnel ?
Mr. LEEBER. Money wise there is monetary value involved in it where the operator is concerned.
Mr. FEDER. If what you are saying about what they do examine and what they don't examine is true in any given mine, then it is clear that that mine is violating the law, which the Federal law does require just what you are saying-it does examine the travelways and everything else that you were talking about on each preshift exam. It just seems to me that there is no reason whatsoever. If all we are talking about is money, why your people can't, if necessary, close down that mine. You can demand a Federal inspection and make them comply.
Mr. LEEBER. Where our people can close down the mine is where they can establish that imminent danger exists or if an area there is a hazard in a particular area of working section is an imminent danger or an immediate danger exists. They can't go right out and close the mine, they have to issue an order to the management to withdraw men whose lives are in danger. Withdraw those men and then correct the condition.
The management is required under the contract to comply with the committee's recommendation. Now these committeemen are men who work for a living, they have a job to perform and they don't spend full time in this occupation of carrying out the duty as safety committeemen. They are fortunate if they make an inspection once a month, and of course their wages for the time they spend in making this inspection is paid by the union. They are not full-time employees of the union as such.
Mr. FEDER. Well, I guess what I am getting at is
Mr. LEEBER. What I would like to see incorporated in the law is that all these preshift mine examiners not be employees of the company, they should be an employee of the Bureau of Mines or the Department of Interior or State department of mines and be employed by them and stationed at these mines and do this work as required by law.
Mr. FEDER. I am not sure whether the Bureau of Mines would like that suggestion or not.
You have a provision in the law requiring a preshift examiner to do everything you want him to do and you also have a provision in the law which allows this, and if he does not do that it is a violation of the mandatory safety standard. You have a provision in the law which allows you or any group of the miners to call up the Federal Bureau of Mines and demand an immediate inspection to correct that violation.
I guess all I am suggesting is that, and I know many miners have said
they didn't know about this provision. It is there and you call on the Bureau of Mines quite a bit.
Mr. LEEBER. Well, it has become necessary to call on them more frequently in many instances but right today we are confronted with the problem with the Bureau of these reasons: They go in and during this course of an inspection of the coal mine they issue an order to a company for a violation of the act. Then they comply and try to get the violation corrected but at the same time there is a penalty involved. Maybe the inspector imposes the penalty for this violation.
Well, the management then under the way the act is read the operator have a right to appeal that penalty and they drag this inspector back into court to have him testify rather as to whether it is justified to penalize the management for this for permitting this unsafe condition to exist. You are drawing from the mines the most needed inspectors which there is a shortage of, I understand, an additional 800 or 900 more inspectors are needed to fully put this act into effect in its proper perspective.
Mr. FEDER. At least that many.
Mr. FEDER. If you don't mind, I would like to ask you a few ques. tions that the committee has been very concerned with. I know in Pennsylvania that they tried to get the same questions answered.
In writing up the law Congress put in some provisions that had never been put in before giving the miners certain rights—certain rights to enforce the statute and certain other rights. The committee is trying to find out just how, if at all, these provisions are working and how, if at all, they are helping the miners to enforce the statute. One of them was this provision I just referred to on the right to demand an inspection. Do you have any idea how often this is used ?
Mr. LEEBER. Well, in district 29 we used it quite frequently prior to the enactment of the new law and we have used it since by requesting inspections of the mines be made on reports that we got in regards to their unsafe condition.
Mr. FEDER. Is there much of a delay between the time you request it and the time the Bureau of Mines comes in?
Mr. LEEBER. It takes a matter of a day or two. You cannot get instant response and many of these hazards necessitate that type of ac