The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 7, 2013

Inspectors

Accountability should have been present all along


— With a job that has the welfare and safety of hundreds of men dependent on whether you do it safely or not, one must be accountable.

That was certainly the viewpoint in a decision handed down this week.

On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that private and federal mine safety inspectors can be held liable and sued when a negligent inspection results in the wrongful death of a coal miner.

Justice Robin Davis wrote the ruling, saying inspectors owe “a duty of care” to workers who count on them to do their jobs “with ordinary skill, care, and diligence” expected by members of their profession.

Mine inspectors must face incredible pressure already, with the knowledge that lives of miners are at risk in unsafe conditions.

Have mine inspectors been asked to compromise their reports or ignore safety regulations in order to assure productivity?

Perhaps.

Hopefully not.

But that chance, albeit slim, should be removed from the equation given the ramped up accountability that now falls on the inspectors, given this week’s decision.

The burden in running a safe mine comes down to inspectors, mine operators, parent companies and the miners themselves.

With all working together, neither safety nor productivity should need to be compromised.

Which in turn will benefit the state’s economy, one that depends on the coal industry.

In our view, demanding accountability in this incredibly important position is the right thing to do.

It’s just a shame that accountability must be ordered by a court of law.