06-19-2012

Beshear emphasizes mine safety in ceremonial bill signing

Kentucky Press News Service

PIKEVILLE – Miners who fail a drug-alcohol test will no longer be allowed to work in Kentucky mines after their third offense as the result of legislation passed in the 2012 General Assembly and signed by Gov. Steve Beshear.

House Bill 385, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gooch, of Providence, amends the current process for testing miners by the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. The legislation updates the 11-panel test, giving the Mine Safety Review Commission authority to add additional compounds to the test, and creates a three-strike policy for miners who continue to fail drug and alcohol tests.

During a ceremonial bill signing at the Pike County/Hatcher Field Airport Tuesday, Beshear said the legislation sends a clear message that drug and alcohol abuse have no place in Kentucky mines, according to a news release from the governor's office.

“Providing a safe work environment for our miners, both below and above ground, is one of the most important duties we have as regulators,” Beshear said. “With the implementation of this legislation, we are not only helping miners get home safely to their families every night, but also allowing those with drug or alcohol problems to get treatment. This will help them to eventually resume work to provide an income for their families and improve the safety of the workplace for others.”

HB 385 provides a treatment option for those miners reported for the first time, allowing their certificate to be reinstated following an evaluation for substance abuse, the completion of a treatment program, and a clean drug test in lieu of an appeal or revocation.

“I was proud to sponsor this legislation, and while I live in the state’s western coalfields, I’m pleased to be here today in Eastern Kentucky with Beshear and other coal supporters as he signs this bill into law,” Gooch sa. “By making sure that coal miners are not working alongside others impaired by illegal drugs, HB 385 will build on our work in 2006, when we became the first state to require coal miners to be drug free to be certified. This law is the next logical step.”

The legislation states that if miners do not participate in a substance abuse treatment program and fail to appeal his or her license suspension, they face a three year revocation of all certifications and eligibility for certifications on the first offense; a five year revocation of all certifications and eligibility for certifications for the second offense; and a permanent revocation for the third offense.

Beshear also held a ceremonial signing of House Bill 411, sponsored by Rep John Short, of Hindman, which declares the Monday of the fourth week in August as “Coal Truck Driver Appreciation Day.”

“I want to show my appreciation for our coal miners and our coal truck drivers,” Rep. Short said. “They do not get the recognition that they deserve risking their lives every day. There is a war against coal right now, and I will do everything possible to fight for my coal miners and truck drivers as long as there is breath in my body.”

The measure calls upon coal mining businesses and all citizens in Kentucky to observe the occasion and honor coal truck drivers. Currently, the third week of August of each year is “Coal Miners Appreciation Week,” when coal miners are honored.