Seven U.S. coal miners died in accidents so far this year, most of them with less than a year of experience at that particular job and mine, according to federal officials. In all of last year, eight miners died.
Tim Watkins, deputy administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health, said Thursday they're launching an initiative as soon as possible to talk to miners and try to determine if there are training deficiencies.
"Our intent is to talk to every single one of them, every miner who falls into one of these categories," Watkins said. "We'll need a great amount of assistance from mine operators."
Six of the seven miners had worked at the respective mines for less than one year, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration report. Five had less than one year experience in the particular job they were doing.
"With the market the way it is, people are moving around, they are having to move people, people are doing different jobs," Watkins said at a stakeholder meeting in southern West Virginia.
Three deaths occurred at surface mines, three at underground mines and one at a surface mine processing facility, federal officials said.
In a January accident, a 42-year-old miner was positioned between a conveyor belt drive and its safety guard when he came in contact with the drive roller and was fatally injured, federal officials reported. In May, a miner hit his head on the mine roof or roof support when he was traveling in a trolley-powered supply locomotive.
Four deaths this year were in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, one in Montana.
Last year's total of eight coal miner deaths was a historic low, Watkins said.
Other MSHA data show 931 miners were injured over a recent nine-month period had with less than one year experience at that mine, dropping to 418 injured with two years' experience at a particular mine and only 83 with a decade of experience.