Depending on the type of coal mine where he or she works, a coal miner can perform a variety of tasks. Despite significant improvements in safety, coal mining remains an extremely dangerous occupation, and no matter what type of work a coal miner does, he or she must be physically fit as well as alert and cautious. Alertness is an important part of the job description for miners because being aware of the surroundings in a mine can save lives.
A coal miner can work as a blaster, setting explosive charges to break up coal seams so that they can be removed, or operate heavy equipment to strip the topsoil from a seam of coal, drill holes in the coal for the placement of explosives, or operate heavy equipment to strip the topsoil from a seam of coal for the placement of explosives. Other surface coal miners work with the equipment that is used to remove the coal that has been loosened blasting operations. Coal miners typically learn how to do this work on the job, though some mining companies provide classroom training as well as practice in a non-operational mine so that miners can become familiar with the job.
A coal miner can be part of the crew that lays out the mine and provides reinforcement and support to prevent collapses when a company needs to mine underground to access coal. He or she can also work on the teams that actually break up and remove the coal, instead of the iconic shovels that many people associate with coal mining. Coal miners can also work as safety inspectors, ensuring that the mine is safe and responding to any safety concerns that arise.
A competent coal miner can work as a supervisor, supervising the work of other workers. Working as a supervisor can be less dangerous because supervisors are not always in the thick of things, but it also comes with significant responsibilities, as supervisors are responsible for the safety of their employees.
Coal mining is a filthy job that exposes workers to a variety of dangers. Heavy equipment, vehicle collisions, explosions, gas leaks, and collapses, for example, can cause lung problems, and miners can be injured heavy equipment, vehicle collisions, explosions, gas leaks, and collapses. Many coal miners join unions in order to gain more worker protections and to receive assistance from the union if they are injured and require medical, legal, or financial assistance.