Friday, April 23, 2010

Miners revisited and the beaver's not happy

I really didn't want to go back to this subject but after reading a post over at Firedoglake the other night and with the latest nonsense with Blankenship (he refused to let miners go to the funerals) I felt compelled to give some insight into what they were doing down there in the bowels of the earth that got them to this tragedy.
Let me preface this by saying that much of the equipment that I've used over the years was developed by the MSA (mine safety) and the atomic energy industry. It didn't really hit me how similar our two professions were until I was listening to a guy on talk radio who worked as a miner for some 25 years and had worked for Massey until he was fired for complaining about safety.
Most of the safety measures have one thing in common, they tend to slow things down when things start to go wrong but there's a high margin of safety built into the systems. I'll explain. The sniffers as we call them monitor the air for explosive levels. That's the lowest explosive level or limit (LEL). That's the minimum amount of a gas that would ignite. But they are actually set way below the LEL to give people time to react. Everyone in the mine knows this. So when the alarm goes off you are supposed to leave the area until it can be properly ventilated. But since they know there's a large margin of safety they'll just silence the alarm, continue working while somebody goes and turns on another vent fan. According to the former Massey miner they would have at least one ventilation system per work area. But as we all know equipment breaks down. So what would they do? They'd use one vent for two work areas.
Another way of cheating was with air sampling. At least one worker is required to wear an air monitor to measure the dust a worker gets exposed to. Coal dust is also explosive. If the levels get too high work is supposed to stop and the problem fixed. But in order to keep production going the worker simply takes the monitor to a clean area and leaves it there until the end of shift. Now you might say what about the outside safety inspectors? Simple. The inspectors always call ahead when they go to a mine. The first thing they check is the paperwork to make sure it is in order then take a tour. The supervisor radios down that the inspector is on site and everything is usually in order. Once the inspector leaves it's back to business as usual.
Now I'm not exactly sure what their ventilation requirements are but ours requires four air changes per hour on an asbestos or haz mat job. Meaning that the machines have to move the amount of air (cubic feet) of the entire work space four times each hour. In a mine that could be quite a bit of air. And we wonder why miners are still dying of black lung.

I hear that Don Blankenship would not let his workers even attend a funeral for the lost coworkers. It just boggles the mind to see someone that cold hearted.

Update: Bank failures are out and this week seven all in IL. hit the skids. A special thanks to Bushco, the porno watching SEC, and Wall Street.


Randal Graves said...

Don Blankenship is one of those guys that makes me wish there was some kind of pill that once ingested, dissolves, coursing through the system, stimulating the proper firing of synapses in the brain, thus conjuring up the most profound feelings of personal pain and loss, burning sentiments that would drive one beyond the most melancholy and suicide-obsessed of the romantics. But of course, he's kept in a padded cell so he can't escape via the soothing touch of death.

Tim said...

Hey My friend very good post!

Randal, don't hold back;)

an average patriot said...

I refuse to believe Don Blankenship would not allow them to go to the funerals. I have heard a lot of crap abut that asshole friend of Hannity and Fox but this is too much.

I refuse to believe tou cn callously disregard safety and your people with no repercussions.

Ranch Chimp said...

This was a damn good posting Guy! Alot of this shit I wasnt aware of, folk's are profit driven .... not letting worker's attend a funeral without some penalization dont suprise me.Lot's of place's in America like that. People/folk's are scared these day's of losing their job's, and these MF's know it!, espcially in tight state's like West Virginia or other state's with tight employment such as Michigan( last I heard Washington State was doing well ). I quit my job in 2006, and decided to try working for myself, first couple year's was tough, though it pay's off today! But thanx for the insight Guy!

Later .........

BBC said...

I hear that Don Blankenship would not let his workers even attend a funeral for the lost coworkers.

Boy, that is chicken shit.

Back about 1970 a number of miners died in the Sunshine mine over by Wallace, Idaho. We hadn't there for over ten years but we drove a few hundred miles to attend a mass service and as I recalled the mine stopped production for half a day so everyone could attend.