A Time for Giving Special Attention to Safety of Coal Miners

coal mine

Safety should always get importance in coal mining operations but in addition special conditions have emerged now in which it is even more important to emphasize safety of coal mining and coal miners in India. This is particularly true of the most extensive coal mining belt in the state of Jharkhand and neighboring areas.

As is well-known, electricity generation in several parts of the country suffered in recent times due to difficulties in getting coal. To minimize electricity generation difficulties, instructions were given to speed up mining work greatly compared to normal times. Whenever work has to speeded up much beyond the norms, there is need for giving special attention to safety aspects as well. This has to be emphasized as, in the absence of special caution being voiced strongly for safety, it is possible that there may be a tendency to bypass some of the normal safety precautions.

Safety precautions are very important in coal mining work as this work is generally considered to more prone to risks. Occupational safety has a special place of importance in any well-managed coal mining. India has a reasonably good record of coal mine safety in recent times but still there have been accidents from time to time due to roof or wall collapse or innundation or other factors. If we go back a few decades then there used to be really big disasters like the one in  Chasnala.  However even as late as 2016-17 serious coal mining accidents have been reported.

Just as steps are being taken to speed up coal mining, Jharkhand has experienced heavy rain. This has been reported as a hinderance to increasing coal production quickly, but the other aspect is that this late and heavy rain can also make the safety situation even more difficult.  Hence combining both these factors, the drive to speed up coal mining work much beyond the norm and the heavy rains continuing beyond the normal rainy season, there is a need to give special consideration to all safety measures in the coal mines of the country, particularly in Jharkhand and nearby areas.

While giving more attention to safety and to avoiding accidents is certainly most important from the point of view of the safety of coal miners, in addition it is also necessary for the smooth and unhindered functioning of coal mining work. The important consideration at a time of shortage is not just speed but also smoothness and continuity of work, and this is where it will be extremely useful to give more importance to safety aspects even from the perspective of just ending  the  shortage and meeting enhanced coal production targets for some time.

In the longer-term of course there is need for better planning and coordination so that such unanticipated shortages do not appear suddenly in future. There has been much discomfort within the government regarding the unexpected appearance of shortages and one hopes that this will prompt the government to take effective steps to avoid such situations in future.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author who has written extensively on safety issues, including occupational health and safety.

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