Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Charleston Gazette: Give Miners Masks That Work

I wrote last week about findings that the self-rescuing respirators that the Sago and Darby miners were using may have been functioning "properly," but miners may have felt like they were suffocating when using them. The Charleston Gazette says to replace them with masks that work, instead of blaming the workers.
It’s painful to contemplate the possibility that the Sago miners perished because they had faulty equipment, and terrifying for today’s miners who still descend each day armed with the same devices.

We fear there’s a nasty implication that has lingered over this controversy — one no one has said explicitly: that the people who died at Sago were just incompetent miners who didn’t understand how to use the devices that could have saved their lives. The suggestion that operator error, rather than bad design, led to the deaths of these men is a dreadful insult to them and to their families.

Rather than blaming the victims, authorities need to focus on providing miners with breathing apparatus that works — before more lives are lost.