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Wrongful Fatalities, Failed Worker Protections

When an explosion occurs at a refinery or mine that has been repeatedly fined for heath and security violations, one query that should be asked is just how unexpected was the occasion.

Answering this question is important because: much less time plus much less money spent on security measures equals more profit Ethylene Equipment for owners. America must introduce new components into that computation to protect the lives and limbs of employees who produce the power on which this nation depends. One issue is bigger security violation penalties — fines and shutdowns pricey enough to outstrip profitability. And when corporations consider fines just one other price of doing enterprise, one other essential issue is the flexibility to cost CEOs with criminal negligence when their corporations flagrantly violate security rules — an capacity that other countries have written into legislation.

As it stands now, companies have found that they will continue profiting even after unconscionable disasters. Take BP for example. In 2005, a massive blast on the BP Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured 180. Enterprise Week noted that BP continued to show a revenue every year after the Texas catastrophe, although it paid more than $2 billion for legal costs and fines and for remediation applications at its U.S. refineries.

Regulatory businesses have repeatedly cited and fined both Tesoro, which operates the Anacortes, Wash. refinery where an explosion killed 5 workers and severely burned two final week, and Massey Power Co. which owns the Higher Huge Department mine in Montcoal, W.Va. where 29 miners are useless.

Since 2005, regulators cited Massey’s Upper Big Department Mine 1,342 times for safety infractions and charged Massey $1.89 million in fines, $1.3 million of which Massey is contesting. Of the violations, 86 had been for failing to obey a ventilation plan to manage explosive methane gas and coal dust. These are the very elements suspected in Monday’s deadly blast. Regulators issued 12 of those citations up to now month, and miners told the new York Times that dangerous fuel accumulation forced evacuations of the mine a number of instances in current weeks. Regulators discovered two violations on Monday, earlier than the explosion.

In January, businesses imposed the largest fines in the mine’s historical past for 2 violations, together with one case wherein a mine foreman admitted he’d known of a ventilation downside for 3 weeks. In 2008, Massey paid what federal prosecutors mentioned was the most important settlement in the history of the coal industry — $four.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties — after a subsidiary pleaded guilty to criminal mine safety violations for a January, 2006 fire that killed two workers in Massey’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine. In addition these deaths at a Massey mine and the 29 killed Monday at Upper Big Branch, three different miners died on the Upper Huge Department mine since 1998.

The Charleston Gazette reported:
“In seven of the final 10 years, the mine has recorded a non-fatal injury fee worse than the national common for related operations, in keeping with MSHA statistics.”

Severe security issues prompted federal investigators to briefly halt work in portions of the Higher Massive Branch mine greater than 60 times since the start of 2009, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported after reviewing U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration records.

Security was such a crisis at the Upper Huge Branch mine that MSHA despatched Massey a letter on Dec. 6, 2007 warning that its serious violations over the previous two years have been so far above common that the mine could be designated as a sample violator and subjected to stricter federal oversight, the new York Instances reported. The letter noted that in 2006 and 2007 MSHA had found practically twice the nationwide common of critical violations on the mine. Inside three months, the mine reduced the number by a 3rd, escaping the additional scrutiny. Nonetheless, the whole remained above the national common.

The citations and fines do not appear to faze Massey CEO Don Blankenship. He instructed a radio station:
“Violations are sadly a traditional part of the mining course of.”

He additionally previously told Forbes:
“We do not pay much consideration to the violation count.”

Despite the deaths, all of the violations and the fines, the Massey Power internet site defends the corporate safety file, contending that 2009 was the seventeenth natural gas prices snellville ga yr out of 20 that the company scored above the industry common for safety — this assertion although the number of security violations in 2009 doubled from the earlier yr, totaled 458 and included natural gas prices snellville ga 50 citations for breaches Massey, the nation’s fourth largest coal company, knew existed however failed to appropriate.

Similar to Massey, Tesoro claims that its safety report has improved — regardless of citations and fines and 5 deaths. In the corporate reality sheet, Tesoro said its recordable damage rates have declined by 30 p.c over three years.

The Washington state Department of Labor and Business fined Tesoro $85,700 a year in the past for 17 critical well being and security violations. These are violations with the potential to cause severe injury or death. As well as, the department found 150 security deficiencies at the Anacortes, Wash. refinery. Tesoro appealed and obtained all however three of essentially the most severe violations thrown out and the high quality decreased to $12,500. The settlement required Tesoro to rent a safety consultant to look at the refinery. That advisor started work on the plant last month.

Immediately after the 5 refinery employees died, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association jumped to defend refining security. Earlier than funerals have been held and with two employees still hospitalized with life-threatening burns, the Petroleum Institute complained that the business wasn’t getting credit for health and security enhancements. And the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association contended that the trade has decrease damage charges than manufacturing usually.

The problem with their numbers is that they mingle deaths with OSHA counts of slips and falls — taking the main focus off incidents just like the fire ball that killed the five Tesoro workers, or the blast that killed 15 at Texas City, or the explosion at one other refinery in Anacortes in 1998 that killed six employees.

Additionally, they do not want to depend accidents to or deaths of subcontractors who refineries often hire to carry out dangerous maintenance work. At Tesoro, a contractor was crushed to loss of life in 2002 and three contract employees were hospitalized in 2006 for publicity to naphtha.

In addition, the OSHA numbers used by the refining industry associations exclude explosions and fires at refineries that had the potential to maim and kill both staff and neighborhood members however, as an alternative, miraculously resulted only in “close calls.”

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels contradicted the refining trade affiliation safety assertions, saying: “The petroleum trade has an extended technique to go before we can feel comfy that workers there are adequately protected.”

Equally, Daniel Horowitz, a Chemical Security Board spokesman, advised the Seattle Times, a disproportionate number of incidents occurred at the a hundred and fifty refineries in the U.S. compared with infractions at tens of thousands of chemical plants handling other hazardous materials. Of the 18 circumstances the Chemical Security Board is investigating, seven involve oil refineries.

Republicans and Tea Partiers are running round like Chicken Little screaming that authorities is simply too large. Thirty workers killed in explosions in 4 days is what occurs when authorities is just too small, when right-wing strategists like Grover Norquist have gotten their method and shrunk regulatory companies to a dimension the place they can be drowned in a bathtub.

Like the Wall Street CEOs who recklessly speculated with America’s economy for his or her private profit, industrial CEOs have carelessly gambled with worker’s lives for personal gain. The “free market” doesn’t control that immoral conduct. Authorities should do it. And when it does, it will need to have the facility to impose fines or workplace shut downs that may harm the underside traces of CEOs who care about nothing else. And it should have the power to criminally cost and probably imprison CEOs, treating them the identical as drunk drivers who risk other peoples’ lives.

In 1946, a group of miners from Illinois wrote their governor looking for his help in imposing rules in opposition to harmful coal mud accumulation in a Centralia Coal Co. mine. They wrote:

“In reality, Governor Inexperienced, it is a plea to you, to please save our lives.”
The Centralia Coal Co. regardless of being cited for violations, didn’t acknowledge an issue. On March 25, 1947, a coal mud explosion killed 111 Centralia miners, including three of the 4 who sent the letter.

Woody Guthrie wrote the song, “The Dying Miner” after the Centralia explosion, including these lyrics:

More than a half century later, the protections and enforcement for miners, steelworkers, refinery employees, paper staff and others remain inadequate. The proof is that the explosions and deaths proceed to happen over and over.

The slaughter should stop now. Workers go to jobs to earn their daily bread. They do not go to die.