Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, The

The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, also known as the Coal Act, was passed in response to the deaths of 78 miners in West Virginia. Prior to the Act, regulations were not federally mandated, which meant that the degree to which mines implemented the Bureau of Mines' safety recommendations could vary widely. The Coal Act saw many important improvements for mine safety, including the formation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), mandated annual inspections of both surface and underground coal mines, and monetary and criminal penalties for non-compliant mines.

The Coal Act, more stringent than any of its legislative predecessors, provided the first framework for health standards in mines. One of the most important of these health standards was the compensation provided to miners left permanently disabled by pneumoconiosis, the progressive disease miners often developed as a result of long-term inhalation of coal dust.