- Associated Press - Sunday, January 10, 2016

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Fewer West Virginia coal miners failed drug tests last year compared to the year before, officials say.

Around 290 miners failed drug tests in 2015, Eugene White, director of the West Virginia Mine Safety Office, tells the Times West Virginian (bit.ly/1RDf4Pj). That’s down from 310 workers in 2013 and 314 miners in 2014.

The decline is likely due in part to the fact that fewer miners are working as the decline of the coal industry has forced mines to shut down and lay off workers, White said. Companies, which are required by law to test at least 25 percent of their workers, may also be cutting back on tests in an effort to save money, he said.

“Some companies screen 25 percent of their workers while most do 100 percent,” White said. “With the declining market in coal, a lot of companies will cut their costs by not drug screening as much.”

But White said coal companies and state officials are also taking steps to fight substance abuse in the coal mining community. Officials have placed posters in every mine in the state to educate miners about the dangers of drug abuse, White said.

“We’ll be talking to every miner in the state,” he said. “We have decals we’ll be handing out and to let them know how serious this is.”

Workers who fail a test are immediately suspended, pending a hearing with the board of appeals.

White said it’s important to remove the workers with substance abuse problems from the mines for safety reasons, particularly because they operate heavy machinery. But officials are also dedicated to ensuring these workers can get back on their feet, he said.

“We try to get them assistance whether it be through counseling or rehabilitation,” he said. “Our job is to try and get them back into the workplace as quickly as possible.”


Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com

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