Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship Sent to Jail for Worker’s Safety Violations - The Upper Big Branch Disaster

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Today, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will turn himself into police custody and immediately start a one year sentence for his involvement in the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster.   How does a CEO of a company end up in jail for a tragic accident?

On April 5th, 2010 in a West Virginia coal mine owned by Massey Energy Company and operated by the Performance Coal Company an explosion claimed the lives of twenty-nine miners and shed light on many workplace safety violations. The Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators had to wait two months before they could inspect the mine due to the large concentration of toxic gases in the mine. The result concluded that poor and improper ventilation to funnel out the toxic fumes lead to the explosion.

Could it have been avoided? According to the families of the twenty-nine miners, the MSHA investigators and judge the answer is “yes.”  In the preceding months of what would become the second largest mining accident in the United States, Massey Energy Company received 600 safety citations for violations including two just the day before the explosion. The citations were given in violation of the Federal Mine and Safety Act of 1977.  The company was responsible to ensure that all safety and health regulations were met in order to provide a safe workplace environment. Each safety report stated that the owners should have known about the violations. A federal investigation revealed that the owners did know about the countless violations of the mines and made attempts to cover it up with duplicate documents. For conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards Don Blankenship will pay a small price compared to the twenty-nine workers who lost their lives in the mine that day.  If the Massey Energy Company and its subsidiary Performance Coal Company would have complied with all MSHA regulations, corrected problems when served with a citation, just maybe the events of April 5th, 2010 could have been avoided.

This was a tragic story that hurt everyone involved just as many worker safety incidents do. If your company needs help improving workplace safety or clearing safety violations, contact Johnston & Associates today. Based in Franklin, Tennessee we offer safety consulting to all 50 states including Puerto Rico.  Our safety systems are designed to help you meet or exceed safety standards so you can avoid worker safety mishaps. ​