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MSHA internal review report on UBB demonstrates systemic failures that must be addressed

date: 
March 6, 2012
For immediate release?: 
 

[TRIANGLE, VA] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

"The UMWA has always believed that three key factors are necessary in order for a mine to be a safe workplace: A mine operator that is willing to follow mine safety laws, mine safety enforcement agencies that are willing to strictly and consistently enforce those laws, and a workforce that is empowered to speak out on its own behalf without fear of retribution. None of these elements were present at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine, with tragic results.

"We already knew that Massey Energy willfully operated that mine in an unsafe manner. We also knew that the nonunion workforce there feared for their jobs if they spoke up and said anything about the unsafe conditions they observed at that mine. The report released today of the internal review undertaken by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) of its own actions illustrates the many shortcomings of that agency with respect to enforcing the law at UBB.

"Required inspections were not completed. Logbooks where critical information was supposed to be recorded about the conditions of the mine were not examined. MSHA District 4 supervisory personnel did not follow up on what were clearly flagrant violations of the law. These and many other failures allowed Massey to continue to get away with violating the law and putting its employees in danger every single day. April 5, 2010 was one day too many. 

"The report indicates that the inspectors who were tasked with working at UBB were new and inexperienced. Many had not even completed all their training. This is a nationwide issue at MSHA, the result of years of neglect and indifference by the Bush administration. But frankly, that's still no excuse for what occurred at UBB. And it will provide no solace to the families of the 29 miners who lost their lives there.

"I am encouraged that Assistant Secretary Joe Main made the extraordinary decision to take a deeper than normal look at the systemic failures of the agency, so that they can be addressed. There is clearly much work to do in order to bring the agency up to the standards miners have a right to expect, and I believe Mr. Main has identified what needs to be done and is on the right path. The UMWA stands ready to do all we can to help in that effort. But we also believe that it is incumbent on Congress to provide him with the tools he needs to get the job done."

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