Mine Safety Administration Blames Massey for Preventable Deadly Big Branch Disaster

Saturday, December 10, 2011
Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship...Why is he not in prison?
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) made it perfectly clear in its 972-page report on the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine that owner Massey Energy was to blame for the “preventable” disaster.
Twenty-nine miners died in the explosion that occurred on April 5, 2010, in Montcoal, West Virginia, after methane gas ignited a large volume of coal dust that had accumulated in the mine. The MSHA concluded that “the physical conditions that led to the explosion were the result of a series of basic safety violations at UBB and were entirely preventable.”
Massey “disregarded the resulting hazards,” regulators stated in their report. “While violations of particular safety standards led to the conditions that caused the explosion, the unlawful policies and practices implemented by [Massey] were the root cause of this tragedy.”
Company officials were accused promoting and enforcing “a workplace culture that valued production over safety, including practices calculated to allow it to conduct mining operations in violation of the law.”
The mine is operated by Performance Coal Company (PCC), a former subsidiary of Massey Energy Company (Massey). They are referred to in the report as PCC/Massey. The report makes the following charges against the company’s management:
·         PCC/Massey failed to perform required mine examinations adequately and remedy known hazards and violations of law
·         PCC/Massey kept two sets of books, thus concealing hazardous conditions
·         PCC/Massey intimidated miners to prevent MSHA from receiving evidence of safety and health violations and hazards
·         PCC/Massey failed to provide adequate training for workers
·         PCC/Massey established a regular practice of giving advance notice of inspections to hide violations and hazards from enforcement personnel
·         A small amount of methane, likely liberated from the mine floor, accumulated in the longwall area due to poor ventilation and roof control practices
·         PCC/Massey failed to maintain the UBB longwall shearer, creating an ignition source for accumulated methane
·         PCC/Massey allowed coal dust to accumulate throughout UBB, providing a fuel source for a massive explosion
·         PCC/Massey failed to rock dust the mine adequately to prevent a coal dust explosion and its propagation through the mine
MSHA imposed a $10.8 million fine on Massey, the largest in agency history, and issued 369 citations and orders, including 12 that contributed to the explosion, and an “unprecedented” 21 “flagrant violations” of safety and health standards including nine that contributed to the accident.
“MSHA also issued two contributory violations to David Stanley Consulting, LLC, a contractor that supplied examiners and other miners to work at the UBB, for its examiner’s failure to properly conduct examinations.”
- David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Executive Summary (Mine Safety and Health Administration)
Report of Investigation (Mine Safety and Health Administration) (pdf)
Massey Coal Executives Escape Prosecution for Mine Deaths (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov))


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