Investigating Upper Big Branch tragedy: Report's key findings

An investigation by J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, into the April 5, 2010 explosion at Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia has concluded that:

  • The massive explosion that killed 29 miners resulted from failures to follow basic safety practices, including using proper ventilation, adequately applying rock dust and maintaining water sprays on equipment – all practices designed to prevent or lessen the effects of an explosion. Massey Energy Co. and federal and state regulators all share the blame for these failures.
  • Federal regulators failed to identify red flags, see the big picture and use enforcement tools at their disposal. "Despite MSHA’s considerable authority and resources, its collective knowledge and experience, the disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine is proof positive that the agency failed its duty as the watchdog for coal miners,” the report said.
  • The regulatory agency in West Virginia is plagued by an inadequate inspection force and insufficient training, and the coal industry has too much influence with state officials. "If miners’ lives are to be safeguarded," stated the report, "the cozy relationship between high-ranking government officials and the coal industry must change, as must the relationship between the enforcement agency and the industry it regulates."
  • Massey Energy Co. ignored well-established safety practices, intimidated workers who raised safety issues and used its clout to exert political influence and resist regulation. From the report: “Such total and catastrophic systemic failures can only be explained in the context of a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable…It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices make sense.”

Full report will be coming soon.

- Chris Hamby / iWatch News