Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. has appointed an independent team to investigate the Crandall Canyon Mining disaster and the ill-fated rescue efforts. The newly formed Utah Mine Safety Commission will review the state’s role in events leading up to the accident. It will also investigate the rescue and recovery process and make suggestions on how to improve mine safety to prevent future accidents.
The effort will be headed by Scott Matheson, a former dean of the University of Utah Law School and a former United States Attorney.
Speaking from Salt Lake City, Governor Huntsman said, “When looking to appoint the best person in the nation to chair this important commission, I thought of no one better suited for this task than Scott.” Governor Huntsman added, “He has the right background, methodical approach to problem-solving, and leadership necessary to lead this important Commission.”
Promoting mine safety has become even more important for Utah worker safety in the wake of a number of recent mining accidents, including, of course, the most recent tragedy at Crandall Canyon. The governor has asked the Commission to recommend changes to the state and local safety laws that would help prevent future mine disasters.
The Utah Mine Safety Commission will hold public hearings at Huntington and Price as well as other locations in the state. Other volunteers serving on the committee are Jake Garn, a former U.S. Senator and Hilary Gordon, Mayor of Huntington. Mayor Joe Piccolo of Price and Senator Mick Dmitrich as well as Representative Kay McIff has agreed to serve on the committee. The committee includes a representative from the United Mine Workers of American, as well as the Utah Mining Association, a coalition of mine owners.
The MSHA is already taking steps to determine the causes of the accident. The agency has appointed a team of highly-skilled mine safety pros from outside the Utah district, to evaluate all aspects of the accident from initial causes to rescues efforts. The special investigative team will summarize its findings in a formal report to identify any problems and errors in how the incident unfolded. Any problems with the response, or violations of federal mine safety standards will be cited at the end of the investigation.
The special investigative team is assembled from across the nation. MSHA chief Richard Stickler announced that Richard A. Gates, MSHA District Manager from Birmingham, Alabama, will head of the group. Gates is a 19-year veteran of MSHA with hands-on experience as ventilation specialist, mining engineer and assistant district manager. Gates lead the investigation into the Sago Mine disaster in 2006.
A number of mining safety experts will be working with Gates on the special investigative team. These include experts on ventilation, retreat mining, and roof control.
A separate committee appointed by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao will investigate the MSHA’s role in the disaster. Critics are especially interested in the controversial decision to allow the families of the trapped miners, and reporters, into the rubble-filled shaft.
At least 3 Congressional subcommittees are also investigating the incident. MSHA Director Richard Stickler has already been called upon to testify before one, and there is talk of a subpoena to force mine owner Bob Murray to appear.
Mining is such a hazardous occupation that the federal government has created a special agency to handle miner’s safety. While most businesses in the nation are covered by OSHA or a similar state agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA, is the federal agency charged with protecting the safety of miners.
In recent years, MSHA has faced a number of challenges, including three major mining accidents in 2006. Those include a January 2006 explosion in the Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia that trapped 13 miners for nearly two days. Only one of them survived.
That same month, a fire at the Aracoma Alma Mine in Melville, West Virginia poured smoke into the miner’s escape route, killing two people. In May 2006, a methane explosion at the Darby Mine No. 1 in Kentucky killed five workers.
In response, MSHA hired additional mine safety inspectors, tightened regulations and made other changes. Still, critics argue that those changes clearly were not enough.
Still, the events at Crandall Canyon are especially tragic, in part because there were initially hopes that the 6 missing miners would be discovered alive. Initial reports indicated that the men might be trapped in an area with sufficient air to survive. There were emergency stores of food in the mine, and potable water.
All employers in the state of Utah must make sure that they have a workers’ compensation poster in their workplaces, and if they have more than one work site, a poster at every one of those sites. The workers’ comp poster, as we have talked about in the past, is vital not only to stay within the letter of the law.
The workers’ compensation poster also provides your employees with valuable information about injury reporting in case an injury or illness actually does take place on the job. The poster should contain the name or names of your insurance carriers for workers’ comp coverage, as well as the phone numbers of these insurance carriers and the state division of workers’ comp. The workers’ compensation poster can also help with injury reporting because it should contain detailed step by step instructions for employees in the event that an accident or injury occurs.
That way, your employees will know, for instance, that they have as much as 180 days, nearly half a year, to report an injury or a work related illness to you. Then once that happens, it is up to you the employer to fill out and file that now-famous (for us human resource dorks!) Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness form. Employers, you have only seven days to get this Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness form into the Utah Labor Commission. You also must get a copy of the Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness form to the insurance carrier who handles your workers’ comp coverage.
This Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness form must be filled out for any accident or injury that occurs at the workplace, no matter how minor the injury may be. A splinter, a scratch, a twisted ankle—they all warrant a Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness form.
Utah is the home of the country’s neatest deserts, and some of the most amazing rock and stone structures in the world. There is the Arches National Part, with its amazing arches and wind blown rock structures. But despite and among all of this natural untouched beauty, there are people too—employers and employees make their home in Utah. And being that it is national law that part of this employee-employer relationship has to deal with worker injuries, Utah also has its own workers’ comp system.
In this Utah workers’ comp system, all employers have to have the workers’ comp coverage—except certain types of industries and for certain types of workers. For instance, there are some types of farm and agricultural workers who do not need to have workers’ comp coverage. Casual or domestic workers—I’m thinking babysitters and house cleaners—also do not have to have workers’ comp coverage. And real estate brokers do not either.
If you are a sole business owner in the state of Utah, and you have no one working for yourself but you, then you do not have to get workers’ comp insurance just for yourself. Partners in a partnership, too, do not have to get workers’ comp coverage for themselves if they are the only people working for their company.
And employers in Utah, you should know that if you are not among this excluded crowd and you need to have the coverage, there is no substitute for workers’ comp insurance. Some employers may buy an insurance policy that provides emergency medical coverage and some lost wages in case of a work related accident. But if you don’t have workers’ comp on top of these coverages, they don’t matter. The only thing that counts when it comes to workers accidents and illnesses if workers’ comp.
As you probably already know, Utah law states that all employers must post Utah Department of Labor posters in an area that is visible and accessible to employees so that they can be informed of their labor law rights. These Utah Department of Labor posters include individual state and federal labor law notices that are mandated by the State of Utah.
The state posters address Workman’s Compensation, OSHA, and Unemployment Insurance, while the federal posters explain Equal Opportunity Employment, Federal Minimum Wage, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and OSHA’s Job Safety and Health Protection Act. Oh, and there’s a new one added as well—the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Before I elaborate on this new addition I did want to mention that Utah Department of Labor posters are changed frequently. And it’s the law to have a current one posted. Regardless, it’s probably a good idea for both employers and employees to have the most current labor laws at hand.
Okay, so back to the new addition on the Utah Department of Labor posters. The federal USERRA poster has been added, which veterans—or anyone who employs veterans for that matter—will find particularly interesting. This poster helps vets understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits, and remedies under the Act. The law itself is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so America can benefit from the protection of those people. Basically, it allows our country to be served by qualified people while also allowing public and private businesses the opportunity to depend on those same individuals.
Anyway, just wanted to make sure you were aware of that change to the Utah Department of Labor posters. I’ll be sure to keep you updated if I hear of anything else.
I found that every state must maintain a Workers’ Compensation Law that complies with Federal workers’ compensation standards and guidelines. Utah is no different. The major difference between the individual states’ laws is how the states handle the percentage of workers’ compensation allotments and the amount of time that a worker is entitled to receive benefits.
In Utah, if a worker loses his or her job through no fault of his or her own, then he or she could be a candidate to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation benefits are based on a percentage of the employee’s wages and can be received in minimum and maximum amounts for a set period of weeks.
Not only does the candidate need to have been first employed in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but the candidate must also prove that he or she is seeking employment. As such, the candidate needs to continue to apply for jobs. A representative will ensure that the candidate is actually applying for jobs and the candidate must have a full list of all places applied to and efforts made in order to obtain employment.
If an individual does qualify to receive workers’ compensation benefits, then the worker must file each week with a report about how much money they have made. If a worker is able to find part time work, then the amount of money that the employee makes will be subtracted from the maximum benefit that the employee was eligible under the terms of his or her unemployment, but the candidate may still qualify for some benefits.
Make workers believe that the taxes they pay, such as employment tax or social security tax, pay for the workers’ compensation. However, it is the employers that actually pay for the compensation. All employers that have more than 4 employees must have workers’ compensation insurance that helps to pay for unemployed or injured workers.