Saturday, October 09, 2010

Doing The Job

The Mine Safety and Health Agency (MSHA) conducted a surprise inspection at a Massey Energy Co. mine in West Virginia September 28, and (unsurprisingly) found glaring violations of mine safety regulations. The mine was shut down and Massey Energy (owner/operator of the mine where 29 miners were killed in an explosion in April) can expect another hefty fine.

The company responded uncharacteristically quickly this time: it fired the foreman and two workers responsible for the violations (cutting too deeply into the coal seam without taking the required precautions of shoring up, failing to test the area adequately, and failing to hang "drapes" which would damp the accumulation of gases and dust from the area being worked) and suspended other workers. A spokesman for the company tried to make it clear that such safety violations would not be tolerated.

The director of MSHA wasn't sanguine about the prospects of future compliance absent additional inspections:

"This is a reflection of the problem that we have in this mining industry with some who, regardless of what you do, ignore the mine law," MSHA director Joe Main told The Associated Press. "What we found at Seng Creek, there is absolutely no justification to be operating a mine in this condition."

The job of MSHA is to continue such inspections and to shut down the mines not in compliance with the regulations. Imposing and collecting stiff fines on the companies involved is also part of the equation. MSHA's recent track record with respect to these tasks is hardly noteworthy. Perhaps the in-depth press coverage of the agency's shortcomings after the Long Branch disaster in April has prompted new resolve. We can only hope so.

This time, at least so far, the agency did its job and potentially saved lives. Perhaps Massey Energy and the other mining companies will get the message and start doing theirs.



Blogger montag said...

From all that I have seen, Bloody Don Blankenship would sacrifice all his workers and see the shareholders investment disappear rather than let anyone tell him how to run his mines. Massey Energy will only improve over Bloody Don's dead body.

9:12 PM  

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