Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13: Crack Down On Unsafe Mines

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The legacy of how seriously the Upper Big Branch mine took the documentation of its safety violations can now be seen in 29 funerals that are taking place.

Had the West Virginia mine done what it should have to repair its safety issues, families of the 29 miners killed last week would not now be in mourning.

The tragedy illustrates the laxity of enforcing state law. In an article released today by the Associated Press, reporters Lawrence Messina and Tim Huber say that West Virginia mines are now usually closed down only after a serious accident, though inspectors can order closures.

The profit-minded mentality of mine owners also plays a factor in these accidents. Should mines really have safety violations in the dozens, much less the hundreds? No.

Compare it to something more banal: Florida restaurant inspection law, which requires the shutting down of restaurants if there are basic health violations.

Mine safety enforcement should be just as tough, and tougher.

Both West Virginia and Congress will now investigate what went wrong and how to prevent future disasters. That will be the easy part. The most difficult part is the one that will actually save lives - enforcing stricter safety measures.

But no more difficult than seeing video and pictures of all those grieving families.

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