Thursday, February 24, 2011

Coal Mining: Dangerous in the Past, Dangerous today

For the last two summers I have had an internship at Crown III Coal Mine in Farmersville, IL. I worked underground with safety inspectors, mining and electrical engineers and machine operators. To say that this job is dangerous is a gross understatement and every time you get into the cage to go underground, your life is at stake. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a subunit of the Department of Labor, puts out a Fatality count/recap of all the terminal accidents that occur in the U.S. I have posted a link to one here that shows the overall gruesome nature of this occupation:

This is an informative account of the death but still emotional attachment remains. Can you imagine this timid young green-hat strolling the mine moments before his death? Can you imagine this 19-year old (Yes. 19, younger than the majority of us) pinned in between the belt line guards? Can you imagine the phone call to his mother, whose son has only been working underground for 15 weeks? This is the brutal reality of the industry and although stringent safety regulations have been placed on the industry, accidents like these still occur. This was a kid who most likely recently graduated from high school, held some part time jobs until October, and then was thrilled when he was hired as a coal miner. His West Virginian bloodline most likely suggests this job is a family affair and the luscious pay (roughly starting salary for a HS graduate~$25.00/Hour), both brought this young soul to the mine. We watch in movies people murdered all the time, but this is real. This is a real life teenager, getting into a real dangerous job, and losing his life. MSHA puts out these accounts to help bring awareness to other miners around the country and tries to help avoid accidents like these, but still the fact remains. This was no Hostel character, no stormtrooper, no cartoon in a music video, none of McCarthy’s literary figures, no ‘Crazy 88’ member, no fictional character… this was a person just like you and I.

1 comment:

  1. It is gruesome, and it's so sad people have to perform these kind of jobs. I definitely think there should be an age limit for people who work these occupations. 19 is such a young age. However, simple economics shows us that there's a demand for this job because of the high wage, which in miners' minds outweigh the hazards of such a job. I guess the same is with other dangerous occupations like prostitution and drug dealing. However, I don't know if I would say mining in itself is violent, it just happens to be a hazardous occupation.


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