greed.jpgThere’s an ongoing debate in the country over whether we need government to intervene sometimes in order to keep the nation’s businesses from screwing workers.

A debate over this was even sparked yesterday on this blog when I talked about the increase in minimum wage.

Well folks, unfortunately, we can’t rely on the business world to police itself. Money is involved. When that happens, men and women sometimes don’t do the right thing, and sometimes it’s more than a worker’s wallet that suffers. Sometimes it means death.

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA fined the operator of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Emery County, Utah, to the tune of $1.85 million for “violations that directly contributed to the deaths of six miners last year.”

Do you all remember the Crandall Canyon mine collapse. Not only did those six miners perish, but two mine employees and an inspector from the MSHA also died when they went in to help the men.

It was a tragic story and the CEO, Robert E. Murray, of the mine kept insisting it may have been an earthquake that led to the tragedy. I wrote about it a few times since then.

Turns out someone should have been policing Murray.

Crandall is operated by Genwal Resources Inc., which is owned by Murray Energy Corp.

This from the MSHA statement:

“MSHA’s investigation found that Genwal Resources recklessly failed to immediately report three previous coal outbursts that had occurred, two in March 2007 and one just three days before the August 6th accident,” said Richard E. Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for MSHA. “These reporting failures were critical, because they deprived MSHA of the information it needed to properly assess the operator’s mining plans. MSHA also found that the operator was taking more coal than allowed from the barrier pillars and the floor. This dangerously weakened the strength of the roof support.”

Here’s how the agency claims the company screwed up:

– The mine operator did not immediately contact MSHA after coal outbursts threw coal into the mine openings and disrupted regular mining activities for more than one hour on three separate occasions prior to the August 6 outburst.
The mine operator failed to propose revisions to the roof control plan when conditions (coal outbursts) clearly indicated that the plan was inadequate and miners were being exposed to dangerous conditions.
– The operator violated the approved roof control plan by removing coal that was required to support the roof.
The operator’s outside engineering firm failed to recommend safe mining methods and pillar/barrier dimensions, and the operator failed to maintain pillar dimensions that would effectively control coal outbursts.

Unfortunately, this is not an unfamiliar story.

Recently I wrote about the dramatic rise in cell tower climber deaths and how many speculated a rush to build out the cell system in the United States may have attributed to their deaths.

And a Wall Street Journal story today uncovers a huge jump in deaths in the steel industry and many believe pressure to meet exploding demand for steel may be the culprit.

We all hope that people do the right thing and not allow the greed factor to impact their decision making, especially when those decisions could hurt the very employees that are a big reason for their economic gains. But alas, hope is not enough.

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