ON the third anniversary of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster, which killed 29 men, Delegate Randy Smith, R-Preston, discussed his experience with safety after more than 33 years as a miner.
His remarks were sobering. Simply passing more laws and mandating more inspections can go only so far. Mine operators and miners have to take personal responsibility.
Miners have never had more training than they receive these days, he said. The laws have never been stricter. And yet, since the Upper Big Branch explosion, West Virginia has suffered 24 mining fatalities.
That is 24 too many.
"To be honest with you, us as coal miners are probably our biggest enemy," Smith told the Daily Mail's Dave Boucher. "Because a lot of the guys, like this year, the fatalities, a lot of these guys have 20, 30 years mining experience.
"They're not the younger people getting killed. It's the older guys that are getting killed. We're not taking care of business. We're not paying attention to what's going on around us. You just get complacent. We can't do that."
Smith knows the subject firsthand. In September, he broke his foot and ankle, crushed his heel and broke his shoulder in a partial roof collapse.
To be sure, inspections could be improved. In February, the Sunday Gazette-Mail reported that West