The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

West Virginia passes new mine safety bill
– too little, too late!

Jan 30, 2006

The West Virginia legislature just passed a new mine safety bill – but only after a second mine disaster within two weeks killed two more miners.

The bill calls for every miner to be equipped with an electronic tracking device so they can more easily be located in case of an accident. It requires companies to create stocks of oxygen at locations throughout the mines. It creates a 24-hour emergency response phone number, requiring mine operators to call it within 15 minutes of an accident. And it provides for each miner to be equipped with a one-way text-messaging device to inform them of an accident and the best escape route.

Of course, the mines should employ simple, basic precautions. But why weren’t they already doing it?

In this day and age, astronauts are equipped to survive in space for weeks, including with two-way communication systems. If the technology exists to live in outer space, it exists for those working in mines. Mine owners certainly use up-to-date coal extraction equipment, so why don’t they have up-to-date mine rescue equipment?

But even worse – there were already safety laws on the books that might have saved the lives of these 14 dead miners. If the companies had followed the safety laws. Instead, they had dozens of violations, for which they were fined a few hundred dollars. The owners ignored the rules and the fines and continued with their unsafe operations.

But there is one simple safety rule that could have saved miners’ lives: shut the mines down as soon as they violate safety regulations.

If the mine owners couldn’t obtain their coal, see how quickly they would solve the safety problems of their miners.