You are hereFireDogLake: Wrongful Fatalities, Failed Worker Protections

FireDogLake: Wrongful Fatalities, Failed Worker Protections


April 12, 2010- In both cases – the five fatalities in a Washington oil refinery April 2 and the 29 deaths in a West Virginia coal mine the following Monday – news reports described the explosions that killed workers as industrial “accidents.”

When an explosion occurs at a refinery or mine that has been repeatedly fined for heath and safety violations, one question that ought to be asked is just how unexpected was the event.

Answering this question is essential because: less time plus less money spent on safety measures equals more profit for owners. America must introduce new factors into that computation to protect the lives and limbs of workers who produce the energy on which this country depends. One factor is larger safety violation penalties – fines and shutdowns costly enough to outstrip profitability. And when corporations consider fines just another cost of doing business, another crucial factor is the ability to charge CEOs with criminal negligence when their corporations flagrantly violate safety regulations – an ability that other countries have written into law.
As it stands now, corporations have discovered that they can continue profiting even after unconscionable disasters. Take BP for example. In 2005, a massive blast at the BP Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured 180. Business Week noted that BP continued to turn a profit every year after the Texas catastrophe, even though it paid more than $2 billion for legal costs and fines and for remediation programs at its U.S. refineries.

Regulatory agencies have repeatedly cited and fined both Tesoro, which operates the Anacortes, Wash. refinery where an explosion killed five workers and severely burned two last week, and Massey Energy Co., which owns the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., where 29 miners are dead.

Since 2005, regulators cited Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine 1,342 times for safety infractions and charged Massey $1.89 million in fines, $1.3 million of which Massey is contesting. Of the violations, 86 were for failing to obey a ventilation plan to control explosive methane gas and coal dust. These are the very factors suspected in Monday’s deadly blast. Regulators issued 12 of those citations in the past month, and miners told the New York Times that dangerous gas accumulation forced evacuations of the mine several times in recent weeks. Regulators found two violations on Monday, before the explosion.

FULL STORY HERE:

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