February 8, 2021
The Honorable Joe Manchin
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Shelley Moore Capito
172 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act
Dear Senators Manchin and Capito:
Last summer, on behalf of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), I wrote to you to express our strong support for the COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act
that you had proposed. We understand that you are now reintroducing that legislation and I write again to lend our support to this important effort to protect miners from COVID-19 while they perform their essential work.
ACOEM is a national medical society representing 4,000 occupational medicine physicians and other health care professionals devoted to promoting optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments. The College is dedicated to improving the care and well-being of workers through science and the sharing of knowledge.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have failed to issue a health or safety standard that will ensure mine workers are protected from occupational exposure to COVID-19. Because of the unique working conditions in mines, however, mine workers face increased risk for exposure to respiratory illness, especially COVID-19, on the job.
The proposed legislation would require the DOL to provide necessary protections for mine workers by working with operators and miners to formulate plans to address occupational exposures to COVID-19. It would provide miners with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and also create mechanisms to record, report, investigate, and analyze data on COVID-19 among miners.
Occupational physicians are witnessing and attempting to mitigate the challenges associated with protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19 in many of the most high-risk sectors, including in mining facilities. An enforceable health or safety standard is critical to ensuring that mine operators have clear and consistent guidelines and expectations when it comes to protecting their employees.
Thank you for your leadership in protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19. Please do not hesitate to contact Patrick O’Connor, ACOEM’s Director of Government Affairs, at 703-351-6222, with any questions.
Beth Baker, MD, MPH, FACMT, FACOEM