Are the workers in your mine ignoring safety violations?

March 4, 2013  |  News & Trends

Is turning a blind eye to safety issues the same as a systematic cover-up, like the one that MSHA says took place at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine? Not exactly. But the end result, unfortunately, is all too often the same.

According to a recent news report, the former president of a Massey Energy subsidiary pleaded guilty last week to impeding MSHA and violating mine health and safety laws.

David Hughart, the former president of Massey's Green Valley Resource Group, was charged as part of an ongoing federal investigation started after 29 miners were killed in an April 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch underground mine in West Virginia.

According to the complaint, Hughart provided advance warning of MSHA inspections in an effort to conceal health and safety violations, according to a statement from the US Attorney's office.

While this an egregious example of what can happen when you ignore health and safety rules, we suspect that this type of thing happens informally at many mines. Not a systematic attempt to cover up safety violations, but under-reporting of incidents that comes from the simple dynamics of dealing with corporate culture and the fallible, sometimes unpredictable dynamics of human interaction. Here's what I mean:

  • No one wants to report their buddy for a safety violation.
  • No one wants to be criticized by their peers for being a "safety freak."
  • No one wants to be singled out as a whistle-blower and end up losing their job.
  • The last thing anyone wants to do on their coffee break is to write an incident report.
  • No one wants to bring work to a screeching halt and get screamed at by their boss, who is under intense pressure to maintain production.

So we get into the habit of turning a blind eye to the hazards we see and hope that nothing bad will happen. Only it does. People get injured or killed. Lives are changed in an instant. Family members must cope with the loss of their loved one, like the families and friends of the 29 miners who lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

Is turning a blind eye to safety issues the same as a systematic cover-up, like the one that MSHA says took place at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine? Not exactly. But the end result, unfortunately, is all too often the same.

Looking to avoid?¬ See: Silver Series Training Program¬ or Gold Series Training Curricula¬

Tags: mining

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