234810 29 dead at the Upper Big Branch mine: Findings of an independent investigation

Monday, October 31, 2011: 8:45 AM

Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH , School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC
On April 5, 2010, 29 coal miners were killed in a massive explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. In the U.S., an underground coal mine disaster of this magnitude had not occurred for 40 years. In addition to the conventional accident investigations conducted by the State and Federal enforcement agencies, the Governor of West Virginia called for an independent investigation. Preliminary findings suggest the disaster was caused by a deadly mixture of methane and coal dust---hazards well known to all coal mine operators and miners themselves. The conduct of the investigations will be presented. The physical, social and economic factors contributing to the disaster will be described. (By November 2011, more concrete findings will be presented.) The role of the State and federal enforcement agencies will be discussed. Perspective on the efficacy and effectiveness of independent investigations will be provided.

Learning Areas:
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
At the end of the presentation, the participant will be able to: list at least three key findings reported by the Governor of West Virginia's independent investigation of the disaster; describe the tension between socio-economic factors and safety practices at the mine; discuss the role of state and federal enforcement practices in controlling hazards in underground coal mines.

Keywords: Workplace Safety, Occupational Injury and Death

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was a member of the independent team convened by the Governor of West Virginia to investigate the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.
Any relevant financial relationships? Yes

Name of Organization Clinical/Research Area Type of relationship
State of West Virginia Accident Investigation Independent Contractor (contracted research and clinical trials)

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.