Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What is the value of a human life?

I have been following the story of trapped coal miners in West Virginia off and on for the last 24 hours. Now, sad news, one of the miners' bodies has been found. My sympathies to this man's family and friends. It does not look good for the others. The real tragedy is, this could have been prevented.
The mine, in north central West Virginia, has been cited by federal regulators more than 270 times in the past two years for safety violations, a third of them considered "serious and substantial," according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The problems included mine roofs that collapsed without warning, faulty tunnel supports and documentation of dangerous buildups of flammable methane gas and coal dust. Recent violations included inadequate ventilation in the mine to dissipate dangerous gases.
Why weren't the safety regulations enforced? Oh, that's right it interferes with a company making a profit for its shareholders. It's cheaper to pay the fines than to upgrade the safety of the mine. I guess a human life is only worth the value of a profit.

Where's that culture of life I hear so much about?This mine had 16 "unwarrantable failures". These were repeat or serious violations that the owners didn't care to fix. So what does the company's management have to say?
"Much of the bad history you're talking about was beyond our reach and ability to control," company chief executive Bennett K. Hatfield said yesterday. "But there's been dramatic improvement, and I think regulatory agencies will confirm that."

In the hours after Monday's explosion, Eugene Kitts, a company vice president for mining, said the 46 alleged violations described in MSHA's most recent inspection report were all minor. "We addressed them," he said.
Someone doesn't want to get sued. Well guess what? That's what happens in a self-regulating market place.


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