April 29, 2010
27-year-old Justin Travis and 28-year-old Michael Carter died yesterday in yet another coal mine accident in Kentucky. The accident came from a collapsed roof inside the mine. Alliance Resource Partners is the owner. Like Massey Energy, ARP had a long record of safety violations. They’ve had 840 since January 2009. That’s an average of nearly 56 per month. 214 came in the first four months of this year. But like Massey, ARP contested the violations, thereby allowing them to continue to operate without fixing the problems.
40 of the 840 violations were met with closure orders — meaning ‘shut down the mine until the violations are fixed’. But that never happened, and enforcement was not applied.
The coal mine industry is a unique industry in that they are obviously allowed to break safety rules and get away with it more than any other industry. This article by a staff writer at the Washington Post says Massey Energy had an attitude of “catch me if you can”. And even thought Massey has a solid record of appealing the violations to the point of expiration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration could have issued an injunction to halt work — but they never used that option.
Even more insulting to the miners and their families, the administration has named the district manager who oversaw Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine inspections to lead the investigation into the accident at the mine. Not named in the linked article but Norman Page is the manager in question. One may ask ‘what idiot made that decision?’, but that’s how far out of touch MSHA is. Just the fact that they thought appointing him was appropriate speaks volumes about the mind-set in that organization. However, that’s standard operating procedure for Washington.
So why does the mine companies and Washington think its ok to allow these kinds and numbers of safety violations to continue? Simple. “Mine worker are the lowest crust of the American labor force, therefore they’re highly expendable.’