By Mike Lillis
Massey Energy failed to report more than 20 accidents at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine over several years prior to April's deadly explosion there, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing documents from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
MSHA, which has cited Massey over the accidents, discovered the omissions while investigating April's blast, the AP reported.
The episodes span from January 2008 right up to the UBB explosion, the AP said. "Among other things, they involve unreported roof collapses, assorted injuries and two instances of miners exercising their right to move out of dusty areas of the mine because they've contracted black lung disease," the news wire wrote. "All were supposed to be reported."
The news comes as a number of Massey miners — both former and current — have come forward with claims that the company manipulates its safety record by discouraging injured miners from filing accident reports.
Former Massey miner Chuck Nelson, for instance, said injured miners were often offered simple tasks in the mine office following accidents. The idea was to keep those workers on the payroll and preclude the need for workman's compensation payments, Nelson said.
"I’ve hauled people out of the mines on a stretcher — at Massey mines," Nelson said in April. "And the very next day you’ll see 'em walking up the hill, coming back to the mine office on crutches and [in] neck braces — just to keep from having a lost-time accident, to keep 'em from filling out an accident report."
More recently, Jeff Harris, another former Massey miner, made similar allegations about the company's policy on "lost-time accidents."
"Reports about Massey’s lost time accidents are also misleading," Harris told lawmakers in late April. "If you got hurt, you were told not to fill out the lost time accident paperwork. The company would just pay guys to sit in the bathhouse or to stay home if they got hurt — anything but fill out the paperwork."
Massey says it's still taking a look at MSHA's newly alleged violations, the AP reported.