An gas explosion in a coal mine in China’s Shanxi province has killed 105 miners. Xinhua reports on factors that contributed to the tragedy:
[Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety] said the number nine coal bed, where the accident occurred, was not approved for mining. However, it had been mined since February 2006. Owners of the mine faked the documents and temporarily blocked the coal bed to deliberately elude inspection.
At the time of the accident, ten mining teams were working at the site, with 54 motor vehicles that did not meet safety requirements.
The gas level of the number nine coal bed was not tested, so the safety conditions were unknown at the time. In addition, there was no gas checking system or rescue equipment provided in the mine.
The approved annual output of the coal mine was 210,000 tons, with a maximum of 61 workers in one shift. However, a total of 447 people had worked in the mine, and 128 people were at work when the accident happened. …
The mine owners failed to report the accident until five hours later, and sent a 37-strong rescue team into the mine without any precautions, which caused the death of another 15 people and delayed the rescue.
The agency acknowledges that weak governmental supervision and soft punishments are to blame in this and other major accidents, and has vowed to “strike hard on corruption and dereliction of duty in the mining industry.” The Shanxi Province has ordered all illegally operated mines to close.
In other news:
Minneapolis Star Tribune: Twelve workers at a Minnesota pork-processing plant have developed a neurological illness, and investigators think it’s probably associated with the a process that uses compressed air to blast pigs’ brains from their skulls, potentially exposing workers to airborne particles of pig tissue and fluids. (The illness was initially identified as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, but further tests show that it doesn’t meet that disease’s criteria.)
Florida Times-Union: Florida’s new “horizontal immunity” law requires juries to find gross negligence (rather than the former standard of simple negligence) before holding a subcontractor liable for injuries to another subcontractor’s employee. An attorney for one injured worker who lost a case seeking compensation for lost earnings predicts that taxpayers will end up providing public assistance to injured workers such as his client, who can no longer hold the kind of job he had before the accident.
Seattle PI: Construction supervisor Ron Slater clashed repeatedly with company officials over workplace and environmental problems at a Superfund site cleanup, and finally contacted the state’s Department of Labor & Industries and the U.S. EPA. The state ultimately issued 34 citations for violations; Slater, however, says he’s been blackballed and has been unable to find work as a construction supervisor again.
Wall Street Journal: Industrial laundries – such as the Cintas facility where Eleazar Torres-Gomez fell into a dryer and was killed – have reduced certain kinds of injuries, but faster new equipment creates new hazards.
Associated Press: Oil and gas workers in southwest Wyoming face many dangers, but facilities that could deliver medical care in an emergency are far away. Four oil and gas companies have now teamed up to station an ambulance close to remote fields.