Federal Regulation Becomes a Reality 1940 to 1977June 15, 2007Dr. Bradley C Paul
The First AttemptsAfter the Dec. 1907 Disasters Progressives Made a Drive for Federal RegulationIt was diverted to a program of post mortem federal investigations in 1908Cherry Mine Fire Nov. 13, 1909 plus set of disasters in 1909 fueled a second pushBureau of Mines was createdInspectors were transferred inGiven a charge to find ways to avoid deathsFirst wave of Federal regulation was technical recommendations to State lawmakers
Catastrophe as the Mother of InventionAfter a 1938 to 1939 period the rapid growth of the industrial machine for World War II (and a little bad luck) led to a series of disasters Duvin July 14, 1939 28 of 38 miners killedShot being fired with people in the mineFirer ignited his powder while working with primersStirred up coal dust in a poorly maintained and cleaned minePond Creek Jan. 10, 1940 91 killedEntry filled with methane from badly controlled ventilationNot inspected and an electric arc touched off the explosion2nd blast almost got the rescue partyWillow Grove March 16, 1940 70 killedThe mine was considered non-gassy so there was no pre-shift inspectingBlack powder shot misfire caught gas pockets and blew up the mine
The Clubbing of 1940Sonman July 15, 1940 63 killedExplosive gas flowed out from open unvented old workings arc from passing equipment set it offBates Aug. 27, 1940 all 10 miners killedLongwall cut a methane feeder and a smoker on the face lit it up.Nelmes Nov. 29, 1940 31 killedVentilation flow had been interruptedMethane accumulated and arc from machinery touched it off#4 Mine Dec. 17, 1940 9 more killedFace area had no ventilation and no inspection for methaneSmoker on the face touched off an explosion.
The New Deal and UMWA GambleNew Deal of Great Depression had defined larger role for Federal Government and ProgramsJoe Lewis had moved UMWA more to a National Political FocusHad allowed local miners unions with more local focus to spring upHad opened up some opportunities for corruption in labor organizationHad meant skipping focus on State Laws and ProcessJoe Lewis is sometimes criticized but it put him in a position to do an end run around Coal BarronsLocals didnt pay attention to National because all that came out there were USBM studies and they had short circuited these with Industrial Commission procedures
Congress Under PressureCongress wanted answersEvidence that States were not doing their job was clear.UMWA was well positioned for a national pushIndustrialists scramble to stop sweeping federal law in Mine Health and Safety Act of 1941
More Toothless Enforcement1941 law allowed US Bureau of Mines to enter and inspect no more post mortem accident investigationsThey could then tell owners what they foundThey also got to report to CongressThey couldnt order or enforce a thingThey could compare mine conditions to their 30 years of Safety testing but could not write their standards into regulationHow they enforcedSent reports to UMWA (the peasant rebels)Sent to the pressOf course this also created liability for owners if a disaster occurredPeople never believe it could happen to themEnforcement by misery factor
The 1946 Coal StrikeAggressive John L. Lewis of UMWA called a coal strike paralyzed whole national economic machineWWII was over so it was no longer unpatriotic to complain about safetyPresident Truman responded by a national seizure of the minesTried to pacify interest groupsLeft owners as operatorsSigned a UMWA agreement
The 1946 AgreementBrought Health and Welfare Benefits into the coal industryWWII manufactures had used benefits to attract workers when wages were frozenAgreed to a National Safety CodeSlightly watered down version of Bureau of Mines Safety Code became enforceable through a contractCreated Mine Safety Committees of MinersCould take safety concerns to operatorOperators were obligated to act on all practical requests(Still pretty toothless)
The 1947 Coal Mine Safety LawCentrelia Mine Disaster occurred on 1946 Government Watch killed 111Authorized the Federal Code to be Official and enforceable law of landOnly lasted a yearDid open the Door to an Enforceable Federal Code
Other Centralia EffectsNext UMWA labor agreement kept Federal Safety code as part of the contractBureau of Mines revisions in imminent dangerEveryone thought putting enforcement on imminent danger orders was enoughRecognition that piles of coal dust were a disaster waiting to happen they were an imminent dangerClosed 518 mines until problems cared for
Kerne Mine ExampleMarch 27, 1947 Centralia #5 Blew upStemmed a bad shot with coal dust and ignited accumulated coal fines + blew the mine upApril 3, 1947 Government Shut Down 518 Mines (in the middle of a demand for production)Kerne mine got permission to put crews under ground to fix thingsThey set out producing coal when no one was lookingOn April 30, 1947 they stemmed a bad shot with coal dust and ignited accumulated coal fines and blew up the mineInsanity Is People really are that stupid!
Orient #2 Mine Explosion (1951)A problem of toothless enforcementSince 1942 the Bureau of Mines had identified serious problems in nearly 50% of all U.S. minesOrient #2 was termed hard for the human mind to conceive a more perfect death trapBureaus Report circulation strategy only had 11% of managers that even responded at allCommonly finding 20 violations per visit
Key Orient #2 ObservationsPoor spraying of water on coal cutting bars allowed heavy float dustTechnology to do this had been available since 1930Vulnerable ventilation systemStill using doors for split entry air systemTechnology to avoid had been used since 1910sHad been left open of Dec 21 1951Circulating air to worked out areas and then onto active faces
More FindingsCoal dust had been allowed to pile up on haulagewaysNobody was checking for combustible content and need for more rock dusting
Black Christmas - 1951Unventilated worked out areas were emitting high methane amountsMine examiners found methane in dangerous quantities but certified the mine as safe anywayA ventilation door was left open dropping pressure and accelerating methane releaseA couple of timbermen lit-up cigarettes outside of an abandoned area emitting methaneMethane explosion stirred explosive dust on the haulageways and blew up half the mine.120 diedMany only narrowly escaped
Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1952Federal Regulations of Bureau of Mines became everlasting law of landThe Bureau of Mines had national enforcement powersTeams of Federal InspectorsClose for imminent dangerCould order problems fixedCould issue withdrawl orders if things not fixed in a timely mannerGovernment CooperationState Inspectors could put together plans to enforce the Federal RegulationsLoopholesSmall mines were Still only under StateLaw was still geared for imminent danger enforcement
A Question of PhilosophyLaw was based on the idea that you close imminent dangers downReluctance to impose the ultimate penalty unless its very clear Accidents happen because of little things that only kill when the wrong circumstances line-upIt hurts the living of the people your trying to protectMany would go and work in bootleg minesIt shuts off an economic engine for whole economyRock dust is hard to monitorNeed testing at Orient #2 people were going by appearance and relative safety of mine from other accidents
1961 Coal Mine Safety ActEnded the Small Mine ExemptionMade easy to issue withdrawl orders for repeated failures to complyCreated and expanded education and training programsSimilar Legislation Passed in 1966 for Metal and Non-Metal MinesBeginning of dual regulations structure we have today
Consol #9 Farmington WVMine Blew up at 5:30 am onNov. 20, 1968
99 people in the mine
Methane ignition stirred coalDust propagating explosionThrough the mine.
#2 Disaster of Recent TimeExplosion set fire to mine and flames pouredFrom one main shafts by 9:30 am
New Mahan shaft appeared ok. NoCommunications system in the mine. TheyLowered a telephone and found 8 people.They lowered breathing gear. No one hadBreathing gear in those days. They rescuedThe men by lowering buckets.
Explosion Destroyed Two Mines Main FansIllustrates that mine fires andExplosions frequently crippleYour ventilation controlHad two crews working in theNew 7 south area on way toMahan shaft.
Determined to keep fan runningTo get air to miners that mightBe barricaded.By evening smoke was pouringFrom Mahan shaft indicatingFire spreading into south wingOf the mine.
Fire at Consol #9On Nov 21 they capped main shaftAnd intake.
Explosions blew the caps right off
Nov. 22 they filled the shafts withLimestone.They tried to put boreholes downInto areas where the two mineCrews were working but found Toxic air (remember no one hadBreathing gear). They loweredPhones but no one answered.
Mine Rescue Teams Sent InNov 24 mine rescue teams enteredDistant Athas shaft(without breathing gear)
Conditions looked normal andThey advanced toward whereThe mine crews had been going in7000 ft before encountering COExplosions from Mahan shaft andGas buildup and explosion riskEverywhere caused efforts to beAbandoned Nov. 29.
Mine was sealed Nov. 30th.
Farmington WV78 of the 99 people in the mine were killedOnly those near shaft bottoms were rescuedMine was reopened for recovery operations in Sept of 1969. Investigation continued till 1978 and 55 bodies were found.19 bodies never recovered. Parts of the mine were inaccessible due to damage.Regulations proposed by Johnson in 68 wer