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Wide Variance In Safety Of US Mine Operations Are Found

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 23-Apr-2010

Posted by Salvatore J. Zambri, founding partner

In a feature, front-page article, the New York Times reports, "The numerous and very public violations and fatalities at Massey-owned mines over the years may leave the impression that all mines are run this way." However, "a comparison between Massey’s safety practices and those of other operators in the coal industry shows sharp differences, helping to explain why Massey mines led the list of those warned by federal regulators that they could face greater scrutiny because of their many violations." The Times compares Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine to the E3-1 mine in Kentucky, which is operated by the TECO Coal Corporation and "has not had an underground fatality since it opened in July 2004; nor does it have anywhere near the number of violations accumulated by Upper Big Branch."

Safety inspectors’ notes tell of "reckless disregard" for safety at Massey mine. The Washington Post reports, "Federal safety inspectors who visited Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine early this year said senior managers showed ‘reckless disregard’ for worker safety by telling a foreman to ignore a citation the mine had received for faulty ventilation, according to the inspectors’ handwritten notes." Written in January of this year, "the notes…illustrate the growing frustration of regulators about safety issues in the West Virginia mine and the resistance of Massey officials to enforcement action in the weeks before an explosion." They also "suggest friction between the mine management and [MSHA] inspectors." According to the notes, "the president and a vice president of Massey Energy’s Performance Coal subsidiary told a foreman at the Upper Big Branch mine ‘not to worry about it’ when he spoke to them about a ventilation problem cited by federal mine safety inspectors three weeks earlier."

Coal-miners are among some of the hardest working Americans, and their jobs are inherently dangerous.  That’s why it is so shocking to learn that employers often increase their workers’ risk by ignoring safety procedures.  Putting greed above safety is what leads to catastrophic injuries and even death.

My thoughts go out to the families of the victims.  I hope they obtain justice.

If you have questions about this issue or others concerning your safety or the safety of your family, please feel free to email me at szambri@reganfirm.com or call me at 202-822-1899.

About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. and has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including work accidents and premises liability cases, as well as medical malpractice and serious truck and car collisions. Mr. Zambri has also been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Law and Politics magazine–a national publication that honors the top lawyers in America.

Mr. Zambri is regularly asked to give presentations to lawyers and businesses regarding work safety issues, product defects, medical errors, automobile accident litigation, and safety improvements.

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