October 23, 2008 The Pump Handle 0Comment

By Nathan Fetty

This is a slightly different post to the Pump Handle, mixing in some visuals.

There’s a route I often drive here in West Virginia that, not surprisingly, takes me through a lot of coal mining territory. Along this route, coal miners are rushing to and from work, and big coal trucks scream down the mountain roads as they get a run to pull the steep grades ahead. Conveyor belts are humming at a large preparation plant.

But one thing that strikes me every time is that there’s a sign for “ambulance entrance” at several of the mines. For example:


Now don’t get me wrong – I’m so glad these signs are there. I’m sure the folks working there are happy to have the signs, too. After all, if something goes wrong at a mine – and we know from recent experience just how wrong things can go for workers in this industry – the last thing we need is for first responders to be scrambling to find the place where they’re needed.

It’s just that, to me, these little signs are a stark illustration of what coal miners endure, even today. After all, not very many of us have what it takes to work where danger is so constant that signs direct ambulances to our workplace.

And of course, for a lot of folks here, it’s hard to turn down this work, especially given the demand for miners even as the economy teeters. This sign’s been up for over a year:


Fetty is an attorney with the non-profit Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. His focus is on coal mine health and safety.

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