Mine safety inspectors in West Virginia have issued a string of safety violations at a mine where two workers died in the past three weeks. The violations are serious and could very well put other workers’ lives at risk.
So far, the West Virginia Office of Mine Safety has revealed that inspectors issued a whopping 45 violations at Pocahontas Coal Company’s Affinity Mine, located near Sophia, WV. The Affinity Mine was where a Bluefield, Virginia man, Edward Finney, died only a few weeks ago in early February. Finney was found dead after being pinned under a hoist that he was using to move trash.
Less than two weeks after Finney’s death, a safety inspector discovered that a newly installed switch at the bottom of the mineshaft that housed the 30-ton hoist had been improperly installed. In fact, the hoist switch had been rigged with an old piece of wood and a rusty bolt. The inspector’s report described the violation as something that indicates “an extremely high degree of negligence.”
Other violations include an emergency hoist in the mine that lacked a metal plate needed to ensure the safe loading and unloading of workers. State inspectors said the violation was serious and also indicated a high degree of negligence.
Just last week a second worker, John Myles, was crushed to death by a scoop at the Affinity Mine. Myles’ death was the fourth such death in West Virginia mining operations in only three weeks and resulted in a massive inspection and safety education effort by state agencies.
The company that owns the Affinity Mine, Tennessee-based United Coal, says it is fully cooperating with the ongoing state and federal investigations. The company claims it takes reports of safety violations seriously and that will address any issues raised by inspectors given that their employees are their most valuable resource.
The Virginia Injury Attorney’s Perspective:
Though it’s good to hear that state agencies have realized how serious the current mine safety crisis in West Virginia is, it’s a tragedy that it took the deaths of four innocent workers to spark the inspections and safety education. Four mine safety deaths in only a few weeks is startling when compared to a total of seven mining-related deaths in all of 2012. The year is off to a terribly deadly start and we can only hope that state and federal safety inspectors do their jobs and work to protect West Virginia workers.
While United Coal may claim that it values the safety of its Affinity Mine workers above all else, actions speak louder than words. If unsafe equipment, equipment that inspectors refer to as indicating “an extremely high degree of negligence,” is allowed to exist in a workplace, then a company’s priorities need to be carefully scrutinized. If nothing else, workers should be able to feel safe in their workplace. After all, no job is worth dying for.
The skilled attorneys at my firm have been involved in numerous cases in which we have represented workers or the families of workers who have been seriously injured or killed while on the job. In one case, involving the wrongful death of a CSX railroad worker who lost his life to lung cancer after years of being exposed to a variety of toxic substances, we secured an $8.6 million jury verdict for the family of our client. While the money pales in comparison to the tragedy, the family was able to find some comfort in holding the responsible party accountable for their actions.
Those who have been serious injured in workplace accidents will likely have many questions about how to move forward and put the pieces of their life back together. The following frequently asked questions contain some important basic information about workplace accident claims in Virginia.