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An Employer And Its Lack Of Concern For The Safety Of Its Employees

1383 words - 6 pages

An Employer and its Lack of Concern for the Safety of its Employees

On April 5, 2010, an explosion ripped through an underground coal mine in West Virginia. The name of this coal mine was the Upper Big Branch Mine and it was run by Massey Energy Company. 61 miners were underground at the time of the explosion and 29 of them were killed, making this disaster one of the worst mining tragedies in US history . The MSHA, or the Mine Safety and Health Administration, released a final report concluding that this explosion was caused by a mixture of coal dust and methane, but that was just the actual physical cause. There were several other factors that led to this explosion, and many things ...view middle of the document...

The case study states that “economists estimated that for every job in the coal industry, around three and a half jobs were created elsewhere.” Massey created a lot of benefits for the area that they occupied and provided a lot of opportunities for the people of that area. Now even though Massey helped out people in the Appalachian area, they also destroyed the environment around them and engaged in unethical practices towards their workers. Massey was known for the removal of mountaintop mining, where explosives were used to blow up the tops of the mountains and it exposed the coal. This was a major issue because the waste would then be dumped into nearby valleys, polluting the water, and it would contaminate drinking water. Under the Clean Water Act, Massey had to pay $20 million in a court settlement because of their unlawful behavior with drinking water.

Another big problem with Massey Company is the lack of union workers. Even in 2010, Massey really didn’t have any union members. Unlike the 1960s, union workers at Massey represented about 90% . The main cause of this lack of union members is the CEO Donald Blankenship. Blankenship started working for Massey as an office manager in 1982. By 1992, he moved up the ranks very quickly and became Chairman and CEO at Massey Energy Company. Blankenship was a hands-on and a very detail-oriented boss. He liked to deal with everything from the ground up and signed off on all the new employees, from the miners to the janitors. He even lived in a coal field and ran the company from a trailer. Under his tenure, Massey’s revenues went from $1.2 billion to $2.7 billion and the number of employees increased from 3,700 to over 5,800 . So that’s why Blankenship hated unions, so that he could control everything himself.

Yet another issue that led to tragedy at Upper Big Branch Mine was the unethical safety practices that Massey Energy Company had. Leading up to the explosion, the mine had received a very big number of citations from the government for safety violations. In 2008, they received 197 violations and that number increased to 515 in 2009 . This showed that the Massey was actually increasing their unethical safety practices and not trying to reduce them. What Massey Company would do after receiving a citation would be to just try to fight them in court. For example, after receiving a citation, the VP of safety would take the citation given by an inspector and look at the miners and say, “Don’t worry, we’ll litigate it away.” By appealing these numerous citations, the mine site was allowed to remain open and they were also able to avoid paying the citation fee. Miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine were also intimidated so that they didn’t complain about the safety issues on the jobsite. For example, if a manager told his workers to not run coal until a ventilation problem was fixed, he would be suspended 3 days for “poor work performance.” Also, if anyone got hurt on the jobsite, they were told...

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