Mine Safety In America

Massey Energy Games Safety Inspection Process, Former Mine Workers Tell NPR

Former employees of Massey Energy, the company that owns and operates the Upper Big Branch mine, site of an explosion that resulted in the deaths of 29 mine workers, say it often fails to take basic safety precautions, NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

Several former miners told him that Massey Energy often does not hang ventilation curtains, as required by law.

"The curtains channel air to where miners are cutting coal — known as the face — to dilute methane and prevent explosions," Langfitt explains.

When an inspector from the Mine Safety and Health Administration arrives, the company tips off workers underground to fix safety violations, the miners told him.

Ron Fluty, Jr., one of the miners with whom he spoke, said that "usually there's someone hollering on the mine phone, saying there's someone going underground."

That's when you shut down and get everything right. You'll be clearing and rock dusting and hanging curtains and trying to get air to the face.

Massey Energy insists it follows the government's inspection system, and puts the safety of its workers ahead of coal production.

To listen to, and read, more of Langfitt's reporting on mine safety, with NPR's Howard Berkes, visit NPR News Investigations.



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