|UMWA President Cecil Roberts|
In a recent letter to acting MSHA chief Pat Silvey, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said he is concerned that agency staffers who visit mines as part of this program will not be able to write violations. "To take away an inspector's right to issue a violation takes away the one and only enforcement power the agency and the inspector has," Roberts wrote, going on to say, "To believe that an operator will comply with the law on their own free will is contrary to historical experience and naive on MSHA's part, to say the least."
The voluntary training program was created to help new and inexperienced miners after a spate of recent coal-mining deaths. Six of the seven miners who have died this year had less than a year of experience at the mine where they died, but had at least six years of experience as miners in general, Kevin Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The training program follows a national trend of reducing formal inspections in favor of coaching miners on safer practices. But some critics say such programs don't help when, they believe, mine operators deliberately put miners in unsafe positions.