A national worker safety organization is using the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster as call to action for the nation to enforce stricter safety standards to prevent workplace deaths.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health released their report “Not an Accident: Preventable Deaths 2015” Thursday ahead of the national Workers Memorial Week, which runs from Saturday, April 25, through Saturday, May 2.
National COSH estimates 54,000 people lost their lives due to workplace accidents or from long term exposure to hazardous substances on those sites in 2014, but few of those incidents resulted in legal action against companies. COSH Executive Director Mary Vogel said she wants to see the number of companies being held accountable increase.
Dr. Celeste Monforton said the pending trial of Massey CEO Don Blankenship for his involvement in the UBB disaster is an exception.
Monforton is a professor at George Washington University and was a part of the Governors’ Independent Investigation Panel on the Upper Big Branch Disaster that killed 29 men. She participated in the release of the National COSH report.
In his indictment, U.S. Prosecuting Attorney Booth Goodwin said Blankenship violated worker safety rules in order to produce more coal, to avoid the cost of following safety laws and to make more money.
“I wonder whether those words sent chills up the spines of executives in corporate board rooms across the country,” Monforton said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.
“They really need to be asking themselves do we push production by circumventing safety regulations because we want to make more money?”
Monforton said when it comes to the mining sector, companies who have workplace fatalities are more likely to go out of business than those who spend extra money to make sure safety standards are strictly followed.