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Anna M. Dailey
Dinsmore & Shohl LLP - Charleston Office

It's the rare coal company that has not encountered illicit drug use among its employees. SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reported in 2003 that more than 12% of miners reported illicit drug use and 15.7% reported heavy alcohol use, with 10% of all miners saying they were dependent on alcohol. More than one mining accident has been suspected of being related to drug or alcohol use, even if it was not determined to be the "cause" of the accident. As a result, in 2005, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
announced it was working on a drug-free workplace rule.

Mine Safety and Health Administration
30 CFR Parts 56, 57, and 66
Alcohol- and Drug-Free Mines: Policy, Prohibitions, Testing, Training, and Assistance

The proposed rule would replace the existing metal and non metal standards for the possession and use of intoxicating beverages and narcotics and establish a standard for all mines. The proposed rule would designate the substances that cannot be possessed on mine property or used while performing safety-sensitive job duties, except when used according to a valid prescription. Mine operators would be required to establish an alcohol- and drug-free mine program, which includes a written policy, employee education, supervisory training, alcohol- and drug-testing for miners that perform safety-sensitive job duties and their supervisors, and referrals to assistance for miners who violate the policy. The proposed rule would also require those who violate the prohibitions to be removed from the performance of safety-sensitive job duties until they complete the recommended treatment and their alcohol- and drug-free status is confirmed by a return-to-duty test.

What are some signs both on and off the job that someone may have an alcohol or drug problem?

Specific signs of when alcohol or drug use is becoming a mining hazard include:

Creating mishaps (such as…), being careless and repeatedly making mistakes.

Damaging equipment or property.

Being involved in numerous accidents, regardless of whether that individual is the one who is injured.

Displaying careless actions in the operation and maintenance of potentially hazardous materials or dangerous equipment.

Being unreliable such as not being where he or she should be when others must count on him or her.

Showing a lack of attention to detail on performing routine job duties. (examples)

Being unwilling to follow directions and being argumentative.

Giving elaborate, increasingly unbelievable excuses for not doing the job or not being where one is supposed to be.

Being a slacker; not carrying one’s load.

Being unresponsive to usual cajoling. (sometimes a coworker just needs a little “peer pressure” to come around, but won’t respond to this if he/she is under the influence of a substance)

Taking unnecessary risks.

Disregarding safety for self and others.

It is important that co-workers, as well as mine operators and foremen, not tolerate unacceptable behavior by a miner who is abusing alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, though, this is a very difficult thing to do. Often, it seems easier to try to ignore behavior than to do something about it.
What are some of the ways a miner unwittingly excuses such behavior and prevents or delays a person with a problem from getting the help he or she needs?

Examples include:

Covering up for a person’s behavior by providing alibis, making excuses or doing an impaired co-worker’s job rather than letting it be known that
he/she is not doing his/her job.

Developing reasons why the person’s continued use is understandable or acceptable.

Avoiding contact with the person with the problem.

Blaming oneself for the person's continued use or getting angry at the individual for not trying hard enough to control his/her use or to get help.

Trying to take responsibility for the person's use by throwing out his/her drugs or cutting off the supply.

Making idle threats to take action (for example, turning the person in), but not following through when the person continues to use the drug.
What happens when someone makes excuses for unacceptable behavior? How does it affect that person?
Often, he ends up feeling:

Resentful…for having to take up the slack

Angry...for having safety compromised and well-being not respected

Frustrated…because nothing is being done to change the situation

Taken advantage of…by the person misusing alcohol or drugs or by not being provided with a safe work environment

Indifference…about the job

Deprived . . . of his right to a safe mine!

Neither the actions of tolerating unacceptable behavior nor the feelings which are a result of tolerating such behavior make the mine safer.
In fact,
these actions and feelings may do the opposite by enabling the dangerous behavior to continue.Remember, it is the responsibility of every employee, manager, and owner to be aware of their surroundings and to do what they can
to make the work environment safe for everyone

Be a Leader and Report the abuse You might saves his life and your fellow workers

However, it is not a miner’s responsibility to diagnose an alcohol or drug problem! Rather, it is his or her job to OBSERVE behavior that is typical of someone abusing alcohol or drugs and to protect himself or herself and co-workers. Ignoring an obvious problem only allows it to continue. Though formal steps such as notifying a foreman may eventually be necessary, a miner may have more influence than he or she thinks if a co-worker is approached in the right way.

One interesting aspect of meth addiction is that, despite the prominence of some groups it does affect people of all social, religious, ethnic and financial backgrounds.
Teachers, police officers, servicemen and women, construction workers, dancers and politicians

have all fallen prey to meth addiction. This is because addiction
is a clinical, neurological disease that can strike anyone regardless of what the circumstances or substances in question are. Once addicted even the most intelligent and emotionally strong people cannot stop using on their own,
despite even severe consequences.

Federal and state governments have moved resolutely on the national meth addiction problem to no avail. Even after banning or completely controlling meth precursors, the drug is still readily made in makeshift laboratories all over the country. As is the case with other drugs, the facts tell us that we cannot control the supply of the drug and therefore we must control the demand by educating people about the dangers of meth addiction.See www.methproject.com

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