Many of the safety violations and accidents investigated by the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training are relatively minor in nature - though, of course, no lapse in an underground coal mine can be dismissed lightly.
But a miner whose behavior is affected by illegal drugs or improperly used medicine is different. That man or woman can cause an accident that jeopardizes the lives of dozens of co-workers.
State legislators are considering a proposal to require drug screening for miners. That is something many coal companies already use to keep employees safe from irresponsible co-workers.
During a hearing on the proposal last week, OMHST acting Deputy Director Eugene White told lawmakers about 200 of the 5,413 complaints and incidents the agency investigated last year involved drugs.
That may not sound terribly significant. Again, however, remember a drug-impaired miner represents a major threat to others around him.
White added that many miners apparently are reluctant to report drug-abusing co-workers to the authorities. "Most of the complaints we get ... a lot of them are from the wives of miners" told about drug problems by their spouses, White explained.
Random drug testing programs are not supported by the United Mine Workers. Union officials have said they fear "false positive" results from tests could unfairly wreck the careers of law-abiding miners.
But many companies already require such tests. Their experience - and that of their employees made safer by the practice - seems to have been good.
Clearly, drugs are a problem in the mines. Earlier this year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said coal companies in southern West Virginia have been unable to fill about 1,000 vacancies because they can't find new miners able to pass drug tests.
Indeed, reasonable safeguards against "false positive" tests should be part of the legislation. But it should be enacted - to protect thousands of West Virginia miners from drug-addled co-workers.