Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Still Digesting the Internal Reviews

I'm catching up on coverage of the MSHA internal reviews. Didn't want to read other stories until I got oriented to the reports independently. (By the way: The fact that I quote one story and not another on a national matter usually has a lot to do with time and chance and is not to be taken as a judgement on whose story was first, better or more important. I have about 1/2 hour in a day to do this blog and can't aim to be the Wikipedia let alone Britannica of mine safety. :) )Further snippets, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

...Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, voiced skepticism about the new [accountability] office [announced by MSHA in the wake of the reviews], given the acknowledged inadequacy of MSHA's existing accountability program.

"Now they're going to establish a new accountability office? It's still going to be their people reporting on their people."

What's needed, said Mr. Smith, is an external review of mining accidents and MSHA enforcement. "When you look at these reports, they found deficiencies in three different MSHA districts. To us, that indicates a pattern."

The voluminous reports reprise descriptions of problems identified previously -- uneven enforcement, inadequate standards for and poor construction of mine seals and insufficient training in the use of emergency oxygen devices.

Kevin Stricklin, who is now head of MSHA's coal program, was district manager for northern West Virginia at the time of the Sago explosion. Mr. Stricklin and his staff of inspectors had stepped up enforcement at Sago but "their evaluations of gravity and negligence were adversely influenced" by conference officers who would reduce the severity of the violations, the review found...

Tony Oppegard, a mine safety expert and attorney representing four of the Darby widows, said he found the Darby report hypocritical. "They issue a 200-page report where they hammer their own inspectors and supervisors, then conclude they didn't contribute to the accident. It's illogical."

"West Virgina's Legal Journal," the West Virginia Record, had this on a recent safety discrimination case:
MADISON - A Boone County man was awarded more than $2 million in punitive and compensatory damages after he filed a wrongful termination suit against Independence Coal Company, a Massey Coal subsidiary.

Rocky Allen Burns filed the case May 11, 2006, claiming his firing was a retaliatory move after he reported safety problems to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Burns worked as an in-house safety inspector with the Independence Coal mine.

A jury awarded Burns with $98,862 in back pay; $800,692 in back pay and $100,000 in aggravation, inconvenience, humiliation, embarrassment and loss of dignity. He was also awarded $1 million in punitive damages, making the total awarded damages a little more than $2 million.

The State Journal recently caried a lengthy piece about a Logan County, W.Va., mine and equipment-company owner who is pursuing approval on an airlock door intended to turh a portion of the mine into a refuge chamber -- basically sounds like "barricading" taken to a much more systematic level.

In a welcome development, China is reporting a drop in coal mine acidents, says Xinhua News Service:
Updated: 2007-07-03 01:39

The number of coal mine accidents in China in the first half of 2007 totaled 1,066, down 242 from the same period last year, based on figures released by the country's safety watchdog on Monday.

The death toll was 1,792, 14.3 percent lower than the same period last year, according to officials with the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety (SACMS) and the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS).

The death ratio in producing one million tons of coal was 1.633, down 19.9 percent compared with the same period last year, said SACMS Director Zhao Tiechui...

Meanwhile coal continues to drive China's energy bus, the same news service reported:
Updated: 2007-07-03 09:17
China's primary energy consumption rose by 8.4 percent in 2006, six percent more than the growth rate of global consumption, according to a report released by BP on Monday.

The world consumption rose 2.4 percent last year, slowing from a rise of 3.2 percent in 2005, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy...

The world's coal consumption rose 4.5 percent in 2006, while China saw a rise of 8.7 percent in coal consumption in the same year to account for more than 70 percent of the global coal consumption increase.

China's coal consumption was 1.19 billion tons of oil equivalent in 2006, and remained self-sufficient in coal consumption with coal output reaching 1.21 billion tons of oil equivalent...

According to Xinhua's calculation based on BP statistics, China's coal consumption accounted for 70 percent of its total primary energy consumption, with oil consumption accounting for 20.6 percent, natural gas use 2.9 percent, hydropower use 5.6 percent and nuclear power use 0.7 percent.

Finally, a Fort Meade, Fla., earthmoving contractor that does some of its work at mines has advertised on Monster.com that it's looking for a safety supervisor. The advertised salary is $40,000 to $50,000. Needs to know MSHA regs, MSHA certification a "plus."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

By blaming conference officers, MSHA's senior management is playing good cop, bad cop. The bottom line is that many miners were killed because the industry was and still is running MSHA and because the former MSHA head was openly prostituting mine safety and health to land himself a nice job when he left. By the way, he failed.

Notice that the firings have been limited to inspectors who have voiced opposition to being prevented from enforcing safety laws at mines that were excessively unsafe. MSHA continues to be the whore for the segment of the industry that uses the lives of miners to fuel its profits.

8:35 AM  

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