Your Lying Eyes

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07 February 2006

Mine Safety Issues: Time to Torture the Miners

The federal government has decided it's time to step in to the coal-mining safety fray, and boy are they going to make a difference. They're asking for a "Mine Stand Down for Safety." How's that? "This Monday, we urge that extra time be taken at the beginning of each shift and before the start of any mining activity to go over the hazards involved with mining and the vital safeguards that need to be taken" asked Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Dye. Right. It's the miners' fault that there was a huge explosion in the mine while they were heading down in their truck - so let's add one more hour of misery to their day so they can be bored to death listening to some excruciating safety lecture they've heard a thousand times before. This reminds me of Congress's reaction to the Enron scandal where upper management robbed the company blind: Sarbanes-Oxley, which basically promises each CEO that they won't have to spend a day in jail as long as they promise to submit their employees to slow torture by clueless auditors.

Why coal-mine safety is a federal issue at all is beyond me. Recently the governors of West Virgina and Pennsylvania have announced initiatives to improve safety. This is how it should be. I live in New Jersey - we don't have coal mines. We have beaches. Our job is to keep the sand dunes in good shape - West Virginians shouldn't have to worry about our sand dunes, nor we their coal mines. Being that coal mining is a profit-making enterprize, it's a no-brainer that the state could easily collect enough revenue to pay for any safety measures it sees fit to enforce. It's not like the mining companies could move their business out of state.

One rationale for making it a federal responsibility would be the greater likelihood of corruption at the state level. But then whenever there's a Republican in the White House we hear how the administration is in bed with industry and rolling back worker protection - so that doesn't seem to be a compelling argument. And, as Senator Sarbanes, Congressman Oxley, and Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Dye have shown, the federal government's solutions aren't exactly on point, anyway.


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