The Fox Guarding the Chicken Coop: Monitoring Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, 1969-2000

James L. Weeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Following passage of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, underground coal mine operators were required to take air samples in order to monitor compliance with the exposure limit for respirable dust, a task essential for the prevention of pneumoconiosis among coal workers. Miners objected, claiming that having the mine operators perform this task was like "having the fox guard the chicken coop." This article is a historical narrative of mining industry corruption and of efforts to reform the program of monitoring exposure to coal mine dust. Several important themes common to the practice of occupational health are illustrated; most prominently, that employers should not be expected to regulate themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1236-1244
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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