Safety is a $Value$ Accidents weren’t cheap anymore In 1903 Union Pacific paid for funerals in Hanna Mining Companies had supported workman’s compensation laws because they avoided the need to blame the company to get compensation –Helped save company face Now Workmans Compensation laws were requiring insurance payments for accidents – couldn’t hide behind courts and tort law anymore Faced peer pressure if you were driving rates up for the whole industry – Peer networks had an interest in cheap safety The View from Industry –Disasters caused bad press and always brought some new regulation or renewed zeal from pesky inspectors
Safety is a $Value$ UMWA rabble rousers used disasters as rallying points to strengthen the Unions –Unions pushed for better wages –Better working conditions –United workers into political bodies that could try to press legislators with block votes (which might rival their ability to buy politicians with money) –Accidents cause bad press – bad press brings Unions – Unions cost money (Can only kill so many people with State and Private Militias)
More Ways Safety is a $Value$ Industry had narrowly averted a wave of Federal Regulation by Supporting the Creation of the Bureau of Mines –They had kept federal inspectors down to researchers Still the Bureau was coming out with stuff they didn’t like –Doing demonstrations that coal dust really was explosive (popular myth of the time was it was not) That coal dust laying all over the mine could be really expensive to deal with.
The Problem of the Bureau of Mines Recommendations of the Bureau of Mines were being codified into State Law –Pushing the use of permissible explosives –Defining risk of coal dust explosion They even had a possible solution – rock dust An expensive new operation
Keeping Regulation At the State Industry leaders smarting from the cost of Workman’s Comp and wanting to counter the technical weight of the Bureau of Mines –Developed the Industrial Commission Structure –The Illinois Example 3 Industry Reps 3 Union Reps 3 At Large – Governor appointees –Industrial Commissions would make recommendations to be coded into State Law –Industrial Commissions also often had influence over insurance and Workmans Comp
Inspections and Regulations at State Level States had Departments of Mines that acted as inspection and enforcement authority Head of Mining Division was a political appointee –Usually Governor appointed though could be industrial commissions Industrial commissions were usually governor appointees –Governor was elected by people Usually wealth barons could control who the parties ran for office –Once Elected Governor balanced appointments by politics Unions had a political voice Industrialists had voice Compromise was usually someone who would try to keep the engines running but who was sincerely interested and committed to safety
The Industrial Commissions Interest Constituencies would communicate to Governor who they believed was best –Governor could also look amongst the constituencies –Usually appointed sometimes with ratification by the legislature Popularly elected body Industrialists had control of many political machines A few political machines ran themselves –Lined pockets with public monies
The Inspectors Inspectors were usually appointed by either industrial commissions or governor –Most had to pass competency tests by the 1940s Most public service agencies are over- committed for their manpower –Sometimes funding was political manuevering –Industrialists trying to cut funds with unions working to keep agencies funded
The Power of the State Inspectors States could inspect mines –Inspectors could identify problems to mine owners and recommend corrective action –Inspectors could warn mines they were violating state safety standards –(Inspectors mostly had to rely on charm and persuasion) –Had limited ability to fine Usually involved bringing charges in court –Most extreme power was right to shut down a mine if conditions were an immediate danger to life
Objectives of the State Commissions Find Cheap Solutions to Mine Accidents –In addition to keeping the image of action alive and the Feds and Unions out Cheap Solutions –Go to cap lamps and safety lanterns (cut stupid ignition sources) –Go to electro-mechanical fan ventilation (it was needed anyway to go after deeper coal) –Have people check areas for methane build-ups –Don’t have people firing shots all over (mechanization had miners working more in crews around machines anyway) Get people out of the mine before firing a shot
U.S. Bureau of Mines Coup Got Permissible Explosives into State Laws Got Coal Dust Identified as an explosion risk –Sold the idea of rock dust to mitigate dust explosibility Was a rather big change from the old “spray it down” adage
Success in Battling Ignition Sources Open Lights and Explosives Where Steadily Reduced As ignitions sources
The Growth of Rock Dust Rock dust will not stop methane build-up or ignition Rock dust forms a barrier to the spread of an explosion
Stunning Results Number of Catastrophic Explosions and Disasters Dropped to Less than ½ Number killed by explosions (which couldn’t spread as well) to less than 1/3 30/Expl. 28/Expl. 23/Expl. 16/Expl.
Rock Dust Effect Stands Even with Production Drop Accident Rates Fell About 50% Fall is well ahead of what would be expected from productivity
Still Not All That Could Be Done Was Done Consider the ventilation technology and best ventilation practices –They could eliminate methane Consider technology readily available for ignition sources – safety lamps and caps Consider well know rock dust and wetting technologies (by 1930s had cutter head sprays to reduce float dust) –Could stop coal dust from being explosive –Of stop the spread of a blast
Looking At Avoidable Explosions Still is clear that obvious best practices and easy fixes were getting into the mines
Technology and the Industrial Commissions Built in inertia –Legislature looked for consensus in changing mine laws Split votes of industrial commissions seldom caused legislature to act Effect was to give any member of any constituency a veto on improvement Previous graph shows clearly the lag between readily available best practices technology and what was being used.
Just Adding Technology Replaces One Problem with Another Growing Use of Electricity replaced Open Lights as A big ignition source Another prevalent source of ignition is smoking
The Frustration 1920s seemed to be hitting a brick wall on safety Bigger more capitalized mines were doing more things right but small mines continued to be more dangerous –Inspectors could get mad and close them down –But then people went and worked “secret” bootleg mines – even more uncapitalized “jury-rigged wonders” –Only so many inspectors and many locations were remote and not easily accessible. Bigger companies understood Workmans Compensation – but laws usually were based on tonnage and had no real difference in fees between safe and unsafe
Impediments to Effective State Regulation Political Chronieism –Positions in agencies including mine safety were handed out to Governors political supporters –Well known that these were political spoils of the victors It is amazing that we got as many truly committed people as we did
Corruption of the State Illinois as a case study – not an only example –Governor Green (Republican elected 1940) filled positions with his supporters –In 1944 and other political pushes he sent out mine inspectors to “shake-down” companies for contributions Created an environment of bought favors and debts
Economic Corruption Mine inspectors were usually poorly paid for the types of skills they needed to have Step up for many was to be hired by coal companies into nice management positions –Don’t want to “burn your bridges” to a better life –Amazingly seemed to be fairly little bribery –Most knew they had been supported to get their jobs and that companies held the keys to their later promotion
Toothless Enforcement If a mine failed to comply with law –You could shut them down if imminent danger Figuring out what an imminent danger was when disasters came from little things was almost impossible Many States had ability to fine –First your would notify them of their violation and given them time to clean it up –If they failed you could bring criminal charges against them in court Could fine them that way –Of course agency would have to spend far more on cases than they could win It could also go on forever
Turf Battles State Inspectors guarded their political and power territory –They were a force for keeping others out of the business –They sometimes interfered with and often resented the Bureau of Mines inspectors
The Centralia Mine Explosion Centralia #5 had long history of dust problems –Throughout WWII had battled about Coal dust on haulage ways Comical excuses for rock dusting 80% combustible No dust control on cutting machines – couldn’t even see Firing shots with illegal explosives with shift in mine –All were illegal –Got nothing but maneuvering and people referring the problem to someone else Occasionally did something temporary just to control the political heat Just complained about manpower and absenteeism –The nothing I can do excuse –Its all someone else’s fault
The Explosion At 3:26 PM the shot firers ignited shots stemmed with coal dust while workers were still in the mine –Explosion spread through the accumulated un rock dusted coal dust on haulage way killing nearly half of the work force instantly –CO swept rapidly behind it –Men ran to shelter in groups but did not barricade 46 died of CO – probably 44 could have barricaded but it was dark and they had no breathing gear –23 men near the shaft bottom made it out and 8 more were rescued passed out or crazy from the CO It was exactly as warned.
Death Toll – 111 out of 142 Centralia #5 Disaster (Illinois) 1947 –State Inspector had warned of dust accumulations and careless coal shooting for years –After mine blew up ask why he didn’t shut it down He would be over-riden and replaced by someone who would white wash the problem He tried to rally the Industrial Commission or State Bureau Chief to issue the shut down (or at least signal him that they would stand by him) Mine owners tried unsuccessfully to blame inspector Uncovered Governor’s use of Inspectors as campaign fund raisers