By Kathryn Ghion
On January first of 2013 it became mandatory for coal mines in West Virginia to drug screen 25% of their workforce. Most of the state’s coal mines have created their own policy which requires 100% testing, and because of that the number of miners failing those drug screens each year is rising.
Failures average about 300 per year and so far this year there have been 252, but there is a way for those miners to get their licenses back.
“If the individual fails the screening, they report it to our agency and we immediately temporarily decertify the individual,” said Eugene White, Director of the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training. “We send a letter stating his rights or her rights. We offer them a plea agreement. It’s an agreement where if they go get into a substance abuse facility, seek counseling, whatever their needs would be, that that would start the process of them maybe getting their certifications back quicker.”
After treatment, the case then goes before the Board of Appeals, who rules in the favor of the miner or the Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.
The most common problems in miners include prescription drugs and marijuana. Now with the rate of failure increasing, they’re making a bigger effort to educate miners.
“We’ve put posters at all the mine sites,” said White. “We’ve put phone numbers for them to call if they have a problem, seek counseling and help.”