Saturday, March 2, 2013

Massey Energy

Another domino has fallen in the ongoing determination of culpability at Massey Energy in the Big Branch mine disaster.  The February 28, 2013 Wall Street Journal* reports that the former head of a Massey subsidiary, Green Valley Coal, warned miners when federal inspectors were on their way into mines and to conceal safety hazards.  The former executive specifically stated that the order to do this came from Massey’s CEO.

Thus it appears prosecutors are following the trail of bread crumbs in an inexorable climb to the CEO level.  So often situations like this are simply attributed to weaknesses in the organization’s safety culture, particularly at the working levels.  It is assumed that senior management’s policies and direction to make safety the first priority aren’t permeating the organization.  More training, more indoctrination in safety priorities is required to get workers aligned with their corporate leadership.  But what is becoming very apparent in the case of Massey, it is the intentional decisions by senior management prioritizing production over safety that drove the behavior of subordinates - and it was those working levels that suffered the immediate consequences.  Now perhaps the consequences are being more fairly distributed.


*  "Guilty Plea in Case Tied to Massey Mine Blast," Wall Street Journal online (Feb. 28, 2013).

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