At the dawn of the new year, America was struck with the tragic and avoidable deaths of 12 miners in Sago, W. Va. The accident was clearly avoidable if the federal government had simply created a regulatory backbone for the mining industry to adhere to.
As West Virginia has been endowed with the right to enforce rigorous regulations not set by the federal government, we must ask, who is to blame?
The Mine Safety and Health Administration is an obvious scapegoat for not enforcing federal laws and the failure of communication because of hard wire systems. Such communication systems are destroyed in fires and explosions. Acting head David Dye claims wireless systems are not reliable in the mining industry, while others strongly disagree, which leads on to believe that the organization is stingy and attempting to cut corners. Moreover, we can blame the Mine Safety and Health Administration for sitting idly by while knowing that a problem was afoot.
Eyebrows were raised in the direction of mining company employers as well, especially after Congressional Democrats revealed hours after the first mining incident that the Sago mine had reportedly more than 200 safety violations.
The Bush Administration is another easy target, one which needs to be addressed. According to the New York Times, “The Charleston Gazette found that a plan to improve a mine rescue program was quietly scuttled by the Bush Administration.” In comparison to the Clinton Administration, who sought for better working conditions for miners, Congress pointed out the Bush Administration’s detections of safety violations have depleted by 43 percent because of a recent federal staff cut. Furthermore, federal programs of safety administration require money to have government inspectors at workplaces. How can companies sustain their authority and improve employee welfare without the security that they depend on the U.S. government to provide?
To say the least, West Virginia miners deserve improved working conditions for not only being hardworking Americans, but risk takers. It is an outrage that the lack of response due to faulty communication has scarred victims’ families in anguish. These domestic tragedies were avertable if properly handled by the various safety authorities within the federal government.