The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 26, 2013

Compare notes

The Register-Herald

— As the mine industry in West Virginia works to complete a governor-ordered work standdown to review safety protocols, we are learning that an investigation into the death of a miner last year in Boone County is being reopened by the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

The reason — a federal investigation into the fatal accident by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) yielded different results.

At the center of the issue is that the federal investigation issued in December 2012 says a mine foreman was holding a ladder when 57-year-old Clyde Dolin of Danville fell and died. The original state probe, released in August 2012, made no mention of the foreman holding the ladder.

“We knew he (the foreman) was around the area, but the information our investigation team collected did not indicate he held the ladder. He might have walked by,” state mine safety director Eugene White said.

“We would have addressed that issue if we were aware of it. When MSHA issued this (report), that was the first time we became aware of this.”

While the MSHA report was made public some four months after the state’s, why is it that agencies like this, designed to protect our coal miners, can’t get together and share information?

We understand the need for some independence and that’s healthy. But wouldn’t it be more productive, and ultimately in the best interest of safety, for them to get together and compare notes and information before reports and findings are issued?

Sometimes it seems like there is an attitude of one-upmanship taking place and that doesn’t really help state and/or federal officials to achieve the ultimate goal of doing everything they can to promote and enforce mine safety.

The scrutiny of how all government agencies deal with the mining industry has certainly been turned up since the Upper Big Branch disaster nearly three years ago. However, it seems to us that the spirit of cooperation isn’t everything it could be just yet.

For the sake and the safety of our miners it needs to be.