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Press release: One Year After Miners Die in Upper Big Branch Explosion, Congress Fails to Act
For Immediate Release: April 5, 2011
For more information, contact:
Tel: (207) 671-1768
One Year After Miners Die in Upper Big Branch Explosion, Congress Fails to Act
Congress Has Failed to Enact Even Basic Protections for Miners Who Put Their Lives on the Line Every Day to Earn a Living
April 5, 2011 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – One year after a massive explosion killed 29 miners at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, Congress has done nothing to improve working conditions for the men and women who make their living in the mines.
“The sad fact is, Congress had before it a mine safety bill that would have increased oversight of companies like Massey Energy and empowered miners to speak up about unsafe working conditions like the those that triggered the Upper Big Branch explosion one year ago,” Tom O’Connor, the Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said, “but they failed to act because the mining industry views workers like those who died that day in West Virginia as expendable, and Congress, evidently, agrees.”
The Miner Safety and Health Act, SB 153, in addition to the provisions mentioned above, would have provided for an independent investigations of the most serious accidents, given the Mine Safety and Health Administration expanded authority to subpoena documents and testimony, and forced habitual offenders such as the Massey company to meet benchmarks and demonstrate unequivocally that they are making progress on safety issues.
The bill, O’Connor said, would have been cost-neutral and would not have increased the federal deficit by one penny.
“The current mine safety regulations are not strong enough and the agency’s inspectors clearly don’t have the tools they need to protect mine workers,” O’Connor said. “Companies like Massey have done the math and figured out that it is simply cheaper and easier to pay the fine when workers die than it is to do the right thing and provide basic workplace protections. Unfortunately, Congress seems to agree. One year ago, 29 miners died in an accident that was entirely preventable and that was a tragedy, but the fact that Congress has done nothing to prevent another Upper Big Branch explosion from happening again is not only tragic, it borders on criminal.”
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.
To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, go to: http://www.coshnetwork.org/.
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