State and federal inspectors arrive unannounced at coal mines for a reason: Too often, advance notice they are coming is used to cover up evidence safety and health laws are not being obeyed.
Coal company officials and foremen who become aware, sometimes by seeing state or federal vehicles pull up to their gates, that inspectors are coming are prohibited by law from alerting those in the mines.
But some people don't obey those laws, even after federal prosecutors have filed charges in similar cases.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration head Joe Main said this week some coal companies continue to warn miners when inspectors arrive at their facilities.
Main added he believes current penalties against the practice are not an adequate deterrent.
If that is so, stiffer penalties should be enacted and more should be done to identify violators. A few well-publicized prison terms for those who alert miners to the presence of state or federal inspectors probably would do a world of good to eradicate the practice.
It needs to be stopped. Again, the number of state and federal law violations inspectors do uncover is bad enough. The probability many are being covered up is unacceptable.