What people or groups were most responsible for the Upper Big Branch Disaster, and why do you think so?

A

When the investigation of the disaster was launched to find out who is to blame for the deaths of 29 miners, the Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded that Massey Energy was entirely guilty in all aspects since it operated its mines carelessly and irresponsibly. Yet, I can only partially agree with this accusation.

It is evident from the case the company’s president, Don Blankenship, abused his position to increase the revenue and coal reserve at minimal costs. He was well aware of the fact that Massey’s activities were beneficial to the nation since it provided fuel, which lessened the reliance on imported oil and thereby saved costs. Moreover, the company gave plenty of jobs to the region that was suffering from unemployment and abject poverty. Massey can be accused of neglecting technological requirements to avoid innovation expenses (push-pull ventilation system implemented in the mines had a design defect, and water spays did not function properly). The corporation violated the Labor Code by intimidating its employees when they reported problems. It also kept two sets of books, recording hazards in the one that was not official.

Yet, it would be wrong to pin all the accusations to the CEO of the company since the government purposefully turned a blind eye to these violations due to the contribution of Massey Corporation to the economic welfare of the region. This lack of governmental intervention allowed the company to abuse its influential position. That is why the authorities also bear responsibility for the disaster.

At the same time, it would be wrong to accuse workers of their passiveness in struggling for their rights (with the help of labor units or independently) owing to the fact that the region is characterized by high unemployment levels. Protesting against any of the CEO’s decisions could result in losing one’s job (rather a well-paid one as compared to other occupations).

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