Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Two Sago Employees Kill Themselves

There's an old joke. If a plane crashes on the border between Tennessee and Virginia, where do they bury the survivors? The answer, of course, is that they don't bury survivors.

Unfortunately, that joke isn't so funny today. From the Charleston Gazette comes the depressing news that two workers at the Sago mine who were involved in the January mine disaster that killed 12 miners, have shot themselves to death.
Mine dispatcher William Chisolm and John Nelson Boni, a fireboss, shot themselves in separate incidents, authorities said.

Chisolm, 47, of Belington, died on Aug. 29, and Boni, 63, of Volga, died Saturday evening.

Chisolm was the dispatcher on duty the morning of the explosion and Boni had discovered a buildup of methane five days earlier in the sealed part of the mine where the blast occurred.
Those close to the investigation blame the deaths on emotional toll from the January 2 disaster
“We need to recognize that this is a serious problem,” said Davitt McAteer, Gov. Joe Manchin’s special adviser on mine safety and the state’s top Sago investigator....“I am very concerned about people at the mine, and in the agencies,” McAteer said Monday. “These tragic events have a long-term impact on members of the community, be they co-workers, as these were, or just members of the greater community.

“There really is a need to provide services to families and fellow workers long after the media and the public have turned their attention elsewhere,” McAteer said.
The problem is well recognized by experts:
The American Psychiatric Association cautions that “survivors of trauma have reported a wide range of psychiatric problems, including depression, alcohol and drug abuse, lingering symptoms of fear and anxiety that make it hard to go to work or go to school, family stress, and marital conflicts.”

The group adds: “The effects of trauma are not limited to those affected directly by the events. Others may also suffer indirect effects from trauma — referred to as ‘vicarious’ or ‘secondary’ traumatization.

“Those at risk include spouses and loved ones of trauma victims, people who try to help victims, such as police or firemen, and health-care professionals who treat trauma victims, such as therapists and emergency room personnel, as well as journalists,” the group says.
The International Coal Group, which owns the Sago Mine, offered counseling after the incident and says that it's still available if workers need it.

With 5700 workers killed in the workplace every year, many violent, traumatic circumstances, one wonders how many co-workers and family members are suffering from the effects of that trauma. You sure don't see it talked about much, and I'm fairly certain that few if any co-workers of job-related fatalities have ever successfully filed for workers compensation based on the psychological trauma of experiencing a co-worker's death.

They deserve it though.