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.