Friday, May 27, 2005

The Modern American Workplace

Yeah, right, all employers need is more training and compliance assistance and workplaces will become safer.
Wade Damron had worked in mines for 11 years but never feared for his life until he found himself on a runaway coal scooper heading toward three co-workers, he testified yesterday during a federal mine-safety hearing.

"I started hollering, 'No brakes! No brakes!' "Damron said. "I had to put it into the rib (mine wall) to stop it."

Damron, 36, was one of four miners who testified before a federal administrative law judge that a Letcher County coal company fired them for complaining about safety conditions at the underground mine where they worked.
The Labor Department is seeking a $40,000 fine against the mine and its owners for each of the cases where mineowners discriminated against workers who were exercising their health and safety rights. But the owners protest.
[Company owner Stanley] Osborne, 61, who like [superintendent Simon] Ratliff is representing himself at the hearing, said safety was the top priority.

Osborne also said that he fired only one of the miners, Wendell McClain, for using profanity after the coal-scooper incident involving Damron.
Using profanity? I’m sure that’s unheard of in a coal mine, especially after a near-death experience.
The others quit, Osborne said.
Yeah, no doubt their virgin ears had been violated by the profanity.
McClain, 36, of Letcher County, who had worked at the mine for only five days, denied the allegation during his testimony.

"I just said someone was going to get killed if they didn't fix the thing," McClain said.

"They told me to grab my bucket and get off the hill."
And, finally, when all else fails, there’s the traditional company fallback position:
Ratliff asked [Administrative Law Judge T. Todd] Hodgdon to allow him to introduce evidence of drug use at the mine.

But the judge rejected the request as irrelevant to a complaint alleging discrimination.
Welcome to the modern American workplace.