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New York salt mine had history of safety hazards

The working conditions that miners had to endure in the early years of the industry are practically unbelievable to many today. The threat of a mine collapse or other accident underground was ever-present. While important safety protections have been implemented since that time, both for workers in general and miners specifically, shocking stories still emerge from active mines that give us pause.

Recently, at a salt mine here in New York, 17 miners were trapped for nine hours at a depth of almost 1,000 feet underground when an elevator mechanism failed. This is a breathtaking episode in and of itself. Fortunately, all of the workers were rescued and survived the accident.

But relief has given way to anger as reports indicate that the same elevator had a long history of problems, including a failure less than a week before. This electrical failure, officials think, is what lead to the accident that trapped the miners. In fact, the same elevator has been shut down at least 10 separate times since 2013 due to braking and electrical issues.

The mine operators have been in trouble before. The company was fined over $40,000 after a fatal bin collapse killed a miner in 2010. Nevertheless, this mine actually has a better safety record than some: its injury rate has generally been below the national average.

In 2014, 45 miners lost their lives in work-related accidents. That number was down last year to 28, the fewest on record, but still a sobering figure. Whenever a worker's death is due in part to a mining company's negligence, a legal representative can help protect a grieving family's rights.

Source: Syracuse.com, "Finger Lakes salt mine: Elevator failure reported 5 days before 17 miners trapped," Mark Weiner, Jan. 7, 2016

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