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Federal court upholds UMWA challenges to MSHA rule on mine rescue training

February 10, 2009
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The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today upheld certain challenges the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had made to a final rule issued by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regarding training for mine rescue teams.

    “The Circuit Court agreed with us that the training levels in MSHA’s final rule for smaller mines did not meet the requirements of the MINER Act as passed by Congress in 2006,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said.

    “MSHA attempted to water down the requirement that mine rescue teams train at least twice a year, but the court said no,” Roberts said. “That’s important for miners in those smaller mines, because they  have just as much of a right to adequately-trained mine rescue teams as do miners in larger mines.

    The court also agreed with the UMWA’s position regarding training for mine rescue team members who are also state employees, ruling that such employees cannot substitute their regular job experience to satisfy 50 percent of their required training, and that any work they may perform as judges in mine rescue contests would not count as actually participating in those contests.
    “Coal miners and our families have learned the hard way that well-trained mine rescue teams, responding immediately to incidents in the mines, can save lives,” Roberts said. “We believe Congress intended to beef up training standards in the MINER Act, but that MSHA didn’t follow through.

    “We are pleased that the D.C. Circuit Court agreed with us,” UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Dan Kane said. “But more importantly we’re pleased that these mine rescue teams will get the training they need, enabling them to be the skilled first-responders coal miners can rely on.”

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