Wife of Gas Drilling Worker Sues for Wrongful Death

Fracking rigThe wife of a Weston man killed in fatal crash in Monongalia County is suing for wrongful death.  This woman’s husband was killed last July when he and a coworker were ejected from their vehicle.  Now his widow is suing her husband’s employer, Nabors Well Services for negligence and wrongful death.

She said Nabors knew her husband and coworker had worked more than 30 hours in a 48-hour span.  The wife of the deceased is also is suing the driver of the vehicle for negligence causing wrongful death.  The driver of the vehicle suffered minor injuries.  Federal laws regulate how many miles a truck driver can travel per day, per week and on consecutive days. All too often, however, truck drivers push these limits to increase profits or because they are pressured by their employers.

The Nabors companies own and operate approximately 521 land drilling and approximately 607 land workover and well-servicing rigs in North America.  Nabors Industries is an oilfield service company involved in every phase of oil and gas drilling and production.  Nabors advertises that they promote safety in the workplace and full compliance with the laws and regulations of the countries in which it operates.

Gas Well Drilling Operations are riddled with risks to Workers:

Oil and gas workers face many risks inherent to their job which may include: explosions, workplace injuries, truck accidents, serious and catastrophic injuries, exposure to hazardous chemicals, industrial accidents involving heavy tools and complex equipment, contaminated air and water, hazardous driving conditions, fires, burns, malfunctioning equipment, and safety violations. Driving to and from the drilling site has become a major risk factor: one-third of all serious accidents and fatalities linked to fracking occur from trucking accidents.

Giving the many dangers, some of which may be unmanageable by these companies, the greatest attention needs to be giving to ensuring that safety regulations are consistently followed to maximize safety for their employees.

Hazards of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving (driving 30 hours in 48 definitely qualifies) is a known hazard and is preventable.  We all know how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

No employee should be put in a position of driving with such sleep deprivation which causes his reaction ability to be about equal with a person who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Individual people are irreplaceable to their families and loved ones, but the rest of the family will need to attempt to build a new life without the love and financial support of this accident victim.  This wife was correct in filing a wrongful death suit.  Companies must be held accountable for maintaining as safe as possible work environments for their employees and should be heavily penalized when they don’t.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Injury Lawyers. Free books for WV accident victims — Call us today: 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families. We are glad to answer your questions.


Seven Things that Really Irk People with Disabilities

wheelchairs on beachThere are more people now than at any other time in history who are working to overcome the limitations imposed by disabilities.  Since the start of the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, over 17,ooo American soldiers have been catastrophically wounded, and the military has treated 1,559 amputee soldiers, many who are double amputees.  With advances in better-protected vehicles, body armor, and improved medical care, more soldiers who would have been killed in the past are now wounded amputees.

As a former soldier and now as an attorney who helps people navigate through the insurance claims process after having sustained catastrophic injuries from vehicle or workplace accidents, I am particularly interested in and well aware of the impact such injuries have on an injured person’s future and family.  As families and friends prepare for holiday gatherings, here are some tips for putting others at ease.

The following are some courtesy tips provided by the United Spinal Association:

  • Put the person first:  say “person with a disability” rather than “disabled person;” say “wheelchair user” rather than “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair.”  The wheelchair enables the person to get around and participate in society.
  • Always speak directly to the person with the disability, not just to their companion or aide.  Respect their privacy and do not make their disability the topic of conversation.
  • Avoid outdated terms like “handicapped” or “crippled.”  Also, avoid euphemistic jargon like “differently-abled.”
  • Ask before you help:  just because someone has a disability, don’t assume they need help.  Adults with disabilities want to be treated as independent people.  Only offer assistance if the person seems to need it.
  • Avoid touching a person’s wheelchair, scooter, or cane.  It is considered part of their personal space.
  • Never lean over a person in a wheelchair to shake someone else’s hand.
  • Never, ever, use a person in a wheelchair to hold people’s coats or set your drink on their desktop.  (Surprisingly enough, some people do these things.)

No matter how a person’s catastrophic injury occurred, sensitivity and respect are crucial in our interactions with people with disabilities, just as it is with everyone else we encounter.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today:  304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

Related Article:  Rules of the Road for Motorized Wheelchairs

Consol Miner Markel Koon Found

The long wait is finally over for the family of Markel Koon of Shinnston. 

The CONSOL bulldozer operator who slid into a failed slurry impoundment in Harrison County was recovered Friday, two weeks after an accident caused the employee’s death, CONSOL officials said.

Company officials said dive and rescue teams successfully completed a pipe and dive recovery effort at about 4:40 p.m. Friday. The name of the miner is Markel Koon, 58, of Shinnston. He worked for CONSOL for 37 years and 9 months, company officials said.  May God bless this family as they finally lay their loved one to rest. (Source:  WAJR news)

Who was Mark Koon?

Markel Koon was a union coal miner, having begun his career at Consolidation Coal Co. on Feb. 11, 1975. He was a former captain of the mine rescue team. He worked on multiple recovery and rescue efforts, including the Sago Mine Disaster.

He was a 1972 graduate of Shinnston High School. Mark enjoyed bear hunting, deer hunting and fishing, and spending time with his dogs. Mark loved his family, friends, fellow coal miners, and dogs.   It is clear that he was loved by his large extended family.

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners. If a little more time and money was spent on the front end on safety for these hard-working employees, the companies could have avoided these tragic losses of irreplaceable lives and extremely expensive recovery efforts. When will they learn?

Recovery Progress Updates:

12/13/2012 p.m. update:  New tools have been brought in and work to extract the bulldozer operator has resumed.

Crews have been working to cut the bulldozer cab, which started at 1:55 p.m., according to MSHA Spokesperson Amy Louvre. The first dive was at 9:25 a.m. and divers encountered heavy frost and ice Thursday morning.

Crews had to reposition the pipe several times and they plan to continue working through Thursday evening.

12/13/12 update:  Divers are preparing to resume efforts today in the recovery of a Robinson Run Mine employee submerged inside a bulldozer in the Nolan Run slurry impoundment. Divers were on-site Wednesday, working to prepare the site after operations were suspended Tuesday night when divers experienced mechanical issues, according to Lynn Seay, spokeswoman for CONSOL Energy.

The professional divers used torches to cut a small hole in the cab of the dozer and were able to positively identify that the victim was inside on Monday, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.  “But they were unable to maintain an arc, and the water and slurry significantly inhibited the cutting process” as the divers worked to enlarge the opening Tuesday, said MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere.  “(They) plan to acquire different tools in order to attempt to cut through the top of the cab and extract the victim.”

“They believe it could take up to two days to cut through the top of the cab.  Typically, recovery operations have been taking place from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Source:  The Exponent Telegram: “Divers Bring in New Tools to Resume Recovery Effort,” Darlene Taylor-Morgan, 12/13/12.

12/12/2012 p.m. update: Dive teams trying to remove a bulldozer driver from a West Virginia coal slurry pond have been forced to suspend operations.  The slurry and water were hindering the attempts to cut a larger hole through the bulldozer cab, so it may take up to two more days to cut through to recover the miner. They suspended operations Tuesday night and are now looking for more effective tools.  (The Clarksburg Exponent Telegram)

12/11/2012 p.m. update:   Although diving efforts continued Tuesday, the body of a bulldozer operator had not been recovered as of late afternoon, according to company and federal officials.  CONSOL Energy has been cited by federal regulators for failing to maintain part of the slurry impoundment where a worker died November 30th.  CONSOL was cited December 3rd for failing to maintain a ditch leading to the Nolan Run impoundment.

Monday update:  CONSOL Energy has confirmed that divers have found the body of a missing bulldozer operator who was sucked into a slurry impoundment 10 days ago. The company says the man is located inside the cab of the dozer. Efforts to recover his body are ongoing – there is no time frame for when those efforts will be completed.  Spokeswoman Lynn Seay wouldn’t predict Monday how long it may take to remove him, calling it a complex effort that requires both time and precision.

Dive and rescue teams completed a series of pipe dives throughout the weekend that helped to determine the position and location of the bulldozer in the Robinson Run Preparation Plant impoundment. The teams were able to reposition the pipe and adjust the water jets Sunday evening in preparation for a Monday morning dive. Monday morning, crews cut an opening in the canopy of the bulldozers and divers were able to confirm that the employee is inside.

Monday a.m. update:  Divers located the cab of a bulldozer in a slurry pond at the Robinson Run preparation plant Sunday, but they have yet to determine if the operator is inside.

Several divers from River Services Company began diving Saturday and “the short-term pipe dive recovery effort (was) still underway” Sunday, according to an email from Lynn Seay, spokeswoman for CONSOL.

Sunday update:  CONSOL Energy and federal mine regulators were mum Saturday about a scheduled diving expedition to find the body of a bulldozer operator in a coal slurry impoundment at Robinson Run Mine.

Spokeswomen for CONSOL and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Friday that divers from River Services Co. would start searching the area Saturday.  But CONSOL’s Lynn Seay could not confirm Saturday if the work had actually started.  “I know they were scheduled to start the dive today,” Seay said. “I don’t know if that happened.” When asked if she might have more information later, Seay said she didn’t “anticipate anything today.”  Amy Louviere, with MSHA, said in an email she also had nothing to report.

However, a Harrison County 911 supervisor said Saturday night that some form of recovery work did take place at the site and would resume today.  (Source:  The Exponent Telegram, Jim Davis)

Recovery Dive Planned for 10:00 a.m Saturday

Saturday update:  Divers are expected to enter a coal slurry pond in Marion County at about 10 a.m. today as part of a plan to locate a bulldozer driver buried last week when part of the embankment collapsed at the dam serving the Robinson Run mine.  The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said a dog brought to the site Thursday night indicated the team is working in the right spot.

Engineers and Geologists Say Slurry Pond Failure Tragedy Could Have Been Prevented

Friday update:  The investigation into a West Virginia slurry pond collapse that swallowed a bulldozer operator is in the early stages, but people familiar with the construction process said it’s likely that someone pushed an expansion project too far, too fast.  Media outlets said the workers were pushing coarse mine refuse toward the upstream side of the dam to expand its foundation and increase its height.

Dennis Boyle of the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in Charleston compared it to pushing material into a swimming pool. Move too far too fast, he said, and the material becomes saturated.  Geologists said there’s a narrow range of stability in the process, and Jim Pierce, a dam safety engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said it appears the stability of either the embankment or the pond’s underlying foundation was lost.

A critic of the coal industry said regulators are ignoring stricter construction standards that could prevent more failures at hundreds of similar dam-like structures around the country. For at least a decade, state and federal regulators have allowed coal companies to build or expand the massive ponds of gray liquid and silt atop loose and wet coal waste, said Jack Spadaro, an engineering consultant and former director of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy.

There are more coal slurry impoundments in WV than in any other state (114) out of a total of 596 in 21 states.  Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said impoundment failures are rare. “These are the most scrutinized and most engineered earthen structures in the world, certainly in this country,” he said. “They’re monitored routinely. They have lots of eyes looking at them. … Anytime there’s a heavy rainfall, the agencies are out there looking at them.”

MSHA Issues Preliminary Accident Report

Thursday update:  MSHA has issued a preliminary report stating some of the facts known so far.  The preliminary accident report describes the series of events that happened on Friday, Nov. 30 at Robinson Run Mine Number 95.   A section of the dam, approximately 650 feet long, 20 to 25 feet above the water’s surface, and 70 feet back from the water’s edge, broke and slid into the impoundment.

MSHA said four miners were working in the area where the failure happened and three of the miners and their equipment were swept into the impoundment. Two of the miners were standing near the face of the dam, looking over and recognized a failure was about to occur. They began to run but were pulled into the water.  One of the miners swam to shore and the other was located and rescued by Nutter Fort Fire and Rescue.  The bulldozer operator working near the face was inside his equipment when it slid into the impoundment and remains unaccounted for.  The two rescued miners were taken to the hospital and treated and released.  Another bulldozer operator had been working in the area at the time, but he was far enough back so that he was not pulled into the slurry by the failure.

Longwall operations resumed on Wednesday, but that coal was being stockpiled—not washed — until the inlet side of the slurry impoundment (where slurry is piped in when washing takes place) can be isolated from the recovery area. In order to do that, a boom curtain is being installed across the impoundment. A chemical also will be added to the incoming slurry to help settle sediment quickly, and the pond levels will be monitored hourly.

 Specialized Louisiana Dive Team Preparing for a Pipe Dive

Wednesday p.m. update:  A group of specially trained divers from Louisiana plan to enter the coal slurry impoundment this weekend.  They are studying a bulldozer of the same model as the missing one and will attempt a pipe dive on Saturday.  Two twenty-foot pipes will be welded together and water jets attached to the bottom of the pipe will be used to flush out the solid material and clear a path for the divers to enter.  The pipe will be lowered from the floating barge to the top of the bulldozer.  Divers would enter the pipe through an access door, with an air supply and communications to operations based on barges on the surface, while water jets installed at the bottom of the pipe push away silt.

The divers will have just about zero visibility once they enter the slurry.  Fourteen barges are being constructed on the slurry pond to serve as a platform for the recovery efforts.    Once complete, the bulldozer will be located by touch of the divers, who will then enter the cab to try and recover the employee, but they don’t know the orientation of the bulldozer on the pond floor.  The bulldozer is 25 to 35 feet below the surface.

According to Consol Energy Vice President of Safety Lou Barletta, if this effort does not work, crews will construct a dam-like area to separate the dozer from the slurry.  They will construct a chauffeur dam inside the impoundment, Barletta said. The dam consists of sheet piling that will form a perimeter around the machine. Then crews would work on removing some items from the area so they can get to the bulldozer.  “We are hopeful we will find our colleague in the cab of the bulldozer,” Barletta said. “But, we cannot yet determine if our employee is in the cab of the dozer and will not know that until we proceed with the short term [plan].”

Understandably, the family of the bulldozer operator has requested that his name not be released at this time until all family members have been notified.

Search Efforts Continue for Missing Mine Worker in Harrison County

Wednesday a.m. update:  Search efforts continue for a missing mine worker in Harrison County. MSHA says several small boats will be used to help move barges into place to search for the man who disappeared into a slurry pond last Friday. They’ll be using 50-foot pipes to anchor the recovery site, which will include several barge platforms. The recovery effort itself is dangerous for the workers. MSHA says anyone inside the buffer zone, on the barges, or on the platforms will have to have a spotter and a life jacket. Consol Energy is expected to brief media this afternoon.

Tuesday update:  The official investigation into what happened at Robinson Run will begin today. MSHA’s mobile command vehicle has arrived on-site and will serve as a headquarters in the coming days as crews continue to search for a mine worker that fell into a sludge pit last Friday. Dredging at the sludge pond began yesterday. Operations are starting to resume at the mine. The company says returning to work will not impact the ongoing search efforts.

Monday update:  Search and recovery teams will continue to look for a missing mine worker in Harrison County tomorrow.  Dive crews have been used to try and locate the man, missing since Friday when a slurry embankment failed at the Robinson Run preparation plant. The man was operating a bulldozer when the embankment collapsed.  It’s believed the dozer was swallowed up and sank as deep as 35 feet below the surface. Search teams hope to pinpoint the dozer’s location and search around it.  The slurry is much thicker than anyone had imagined.

Sunday update:  “Diving isn’t likely going to happen today,” said federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Amy Louviere in a 10:45 a.m. Sunday update, following a Saturday night update saying diving would begin this morning. “Other options are being considered.”

Probing with pipes was to be conducted this morning prior to diving, Louviere said earlier.  Consol has taken platform barges into work from on the water, she added, and dredges are being assembled for use, although the assembly time will be lengthy.  An additional slurry pump is being installed to handle heavier material, such as sediment.

Louviere confirmed that the miner was in the bulldozer when the impoundment collapsed, so the hope is that when the bulldozer has been located — and they believe they have located it — they will find the miner.

Personnel were using metal rods to better locate the bulldozer and the machine may not be as deep as originally thought. Crews were working to confirm the bulldozer is 25 to 35 feet below the surface.  There were plans to use sheet pilings to surround and isolate the bulldozer, which would allow divers to enter the area to search for the missing operator

 One Miner Missing and Two Injured in Robinson Run Preparation Plant Slurry Impoundment Failure

Original story:  One person is missing and two were injured Friday following an embankment failure on top of Robinson Run Preparation Plant slurry impoundment.   Coal slurry impoundments are used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater byproduct known as slurry created when preparations plants wash raw coal to help it burn efficiently before it is shipped to customers.  The CONSOL Energy mine is at the border of Harrison and Marion counties.

According to statements from CONSOL and the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA): At about 12:15 p.m., a failure occurred when one bulldozer operator and two engineers were on top of the impoundment.

CONSOL confirmed that a refuse embankment gave way, causing a bulldozer and two pickup trucks to slide into a slurry pond.
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the part that collapsed was a pad under construction within the pool area of the impoundment. The pad is more than 1,000 feet from the main embankment. The area that failed is roughly 200 yards long and 200 feet wide.

An ambulance took one engineer to Fairmont General Hospital, where he was treated and released. The other engineer was taken by HealthNet helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital and was in stable condition, according to CONSOL.

Crews were on-site searching for the third man. The embankment remains unstable, creating difficult rescue conditions, according to the energy company. The rescue effort included dive teams and a boat with sonar. Crews were expected to search throughout the night.

CONSOL also worked on lowering the pond’s water level to aid search efforts. The pond had a standing depth of 12 feet. Response teams are draining the pond at 1,600 gallons per minute, according to the DEP. The water from the impoundment is being pumped into a freshwater pond where it will be filtered and treated before being released. The DEP is monitoring the discharge.  As a result of the incident, the company canceled the 4 p.m.-midnight shift.

MSHA staff, state officials, company representatives and United Mine Workers of America personnel were at the site.
According to CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay, there have been no leaks from the pond as a result of the incident, but material continuing to fall from the embankment into the pond hampered rescue efforts.

According to DEP Spokeswoman Kathy Cosco, engineers in consultation with the MSHA investigator have determined that there is no imminent risk of failure of the impoundment and no evacuations are anticipated.

Steven O’Dell, Alex Energy Employee, Also Killed in Separate Incident on Friday

Also on Friday, Steven O’Dell, an electrician, was killed when he became caught between a scoop and a continuous mining machine around 1:30 a.m. at the Pocahontas Mine A White Buck Portal near Rupert in Greenbrier County, said Leslie Fitzwater of the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.  The mine is owned by White Buck Coal Co., a subsidiary of Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. O’Dell was an employee of Alex Energy.

O’Dell is the state’s sixth mining fatality this year.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers.  Free books — Call us today: 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care:  WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters:  WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

Sources:  The Dominion Post, 12/01/2012, Alex Lang;  http://www.wtrf.com/story/20234683/2012/12/01/search-continues-in-harrison-county-for-missing-consol-miner?clienttype=printable; http://www.WAJR.com; www.WBOY.com, www.MSHA.gov

Former Massey Energy Official Faces up to Six Years in Prison for UBB Coal Mine Explosion

Massey Energy Valued Profits over People:  Massey official admits that if Massey had consistently followed the safety laws, coal production would have been decreased.

According to WV MetroNews, a former Massey Energy coal company official has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from safety violations at mines he operated.

The charges against David C. Hughart, the former President of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group, are a result of the ongoing investigation into the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says Hughart will plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy. He faces up to six years in prison.  Hughart is the fourth Massey official so far to be criminally charged in connection with the UBB investigation.  According to federal documents, Hughart operated Massey Energy subsidiary mines in Nicholas County that routinely violated health and safety laws “because of a belief that consistently following those laws would decrease coal production.”

Additionally, Hughart was responsible for illegal advance warnings at his mines when federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors arrived. According to the federal document charging Hughart, “If these routine mine health and safety violations were detected by MSHA, the resulting citations and orders could result in coal production being stopped.”

Goodwin says it was a case of putting production ahead of safety.

“He wasn’t acting alone,” Goodwin said on Wednesday’s MetroNews Talkline. “The very nature of the conspiracy is that he acted in concert with other individuals, not just at Green Valley, but at other coal operations in Massey Energy.”

Federal investigators have been probing Massey operations since the April 2010 disaster at UBB. An MSHA investigation released last year found that flagrant safety violations contributed to a massive coal dust explosion that killed the miners.

Former UBB Mine Superintendent Gary May and the former head of security at the mine, Hughie Elbert Stover, have both been convicted of charges stemming from the disaster. A former UBB worker, Thomas Harrah, has also pleaded guilty to lying about being a foreman when he acted as one at UBB.

A judge has denied a motion to delay the sentencing of Gary May, a former superintendent of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine, so the January 17th sentencing will go on as planned.  U.S. District Judge Irene Berger denied prosecutors’ request for a postponement, saying they’d failed to “state good cause.” Gary May pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in March.

May’s sentencing is set for Jan. 17, 2013 in Beckley. He’s cooperating with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation of the 2010 explosion at the former Massey Energy mine where 29 men died in an explosion.

Additionally, Alpha Natural Resources, which bought out Massey after the disaster, has reached a $209 million dollar settlement in the case.

The UBB mine, located in Raleigh County, is permanently closed.

Coal Mine Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners.

The UBB disaster illustrates the continued need for integrity in safety compliance and inspections to prevent the untimely deaths of people who are simply trying to earn a living.  Unscrupulous companies that seek maximum profits by ignoring safety concerns must be held accountable.

Attorney Jeff Robinette has litigated complex work-related injury and death cases caused by workplace hazards. Our law firm has significant experience in litigating complex coal mine cases – like the Sago Mine explosion – where serious injuries and deaths occurred.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Call us today: 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide.

Source:  WAJR/WV MetroNews:  http://www.wvmetronews.com/index.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=56579&type=

Bangladesh’s Story Was Our Story – and we still have a long way to go…

We have one hundred years’ worth of laws to protect laborers and punish wrongdoers, but we still have much to learn about ensuring that those who labor for our benefit are treated with justice.  In the early years of manufacturing in the US, we were dealing with the same issues as Bangladesh, India, and China.  More recently, the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine and Sago Coal Mine disasters illustrate the continued need for integrity in safety compliance and inspections to prevent the untimely deaths of people who are simply trying to earn a living.  The natural gas drilling industry is now working on regulating and inspecting its worksites for safety issues to minimize the hazards of this dangerous work.  Unscrupulous companies that seek maximum profits by ignoring safety concerns must be held accountable.

Concerning the UBB Coal Mine explosion,  federal documents state that the Massey Energy subsidiary mines in Nicholas County routinely violated health and safety laws “because of a belief that consistently following those laws would decrease coal production.”  David C. Hughart, the fourth Massey official facing criminal charges, will plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy. He faces up to six years in prison.

Workplace personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are dedicated to ensuring that business owners maintain OSHA’s high standards for workplace safety, and ensure that if they do attempt to skirt compliance, they suffer great punitive damages.  Unfortunately, the fear of lawsuits is sometimes the only motivator for companies to maintain safety standards for their employees.

A scenario almost identical to the Tazreen Fashion Factory disaster in Bangladesh occurred in 1911 in New York City. The infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York and became the catalyst for true reform in New York State labor law.  The facts of this disaster were nearly identical to those of the recent fire in Dhaka where three company officials have been taken into custody and face criminal charges for locking the exit doors while employees were working.

As we shop for Christmas gifts and seek bargains, maybe we should consider why an object is so very cheap.  To make a difference on a personal level, we can investigate online where some of our goods are manufactured and avoid brands that are known to use sweatshop labor.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Call us today: 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide.

More than 120 Killed in Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire

Today, November 27th, 2012, has been designated a national day of mourning in Bangladesh.   On November 25, 2012, fire swept through the Tazreen Fashion factory, a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, killing more than 120 people in the country’s worst-ever factory fire.  The fire at the nine-story factory started on the ground floor late on Saturday and spread, trapping hundreds of workers.   Interior stairways were made impassable by the flames rising from the first floor where the blaze began.  The cause of this fire that started on the ground floor is not yet known.  The building had no fire escapes.

Over 600 of the factory’s 1,500 employees were reported to have been in the factory working overtime when the blaze began.  Most of the workers killed were women, including at least nine who jumped to their death from windows.  Some workers died of smoke inhalation and many were burned beyond recognition, while many more were taken to the hospital for severe burns and toxic exposure.   The Tazreen factory has been reported to have sales of over $35,000,000 per year.  The entry-level wage for a garment worker is about $37 per month.

Thousands of people are in the streets this week protesting working conditions at Bangladeshi factories which are notoriously poor, with little enforcement of safety laws, and with overcrowding and locked fire doors common.   In 2006 a similar fire in Bangladesh killed 84 garment workers who could not escape through blocked fire exits.  Over 300 factory workers have died in Bangladesh in the past six years resulting from unsafe working conditions.

More than 300 factories near the capital shut for almost a week earlier this year as workers demanded higher wages and better working conditions.   Bangladesh, with over 4,500 garment factories, is the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, manufacturing clothing for stores like Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny, and Khols.  After the blaze was extinguished, charred clothing with labels from Faded Glory, Wal-Mart’s brand of clothing was found in the remains.

According to the New York Times,  Bangladesh’s garment industry has also attracted rising international and domestic criticism over a poor fire safety record, low wages and policies that restrict labor organizing inside factories. The Clean Clothes Campaign, a European group that opposes sweatshops, said that more than 500 Bangladeshi laborers had died in factory fires since 2006. In 2010, 29 workers died from a fire inside a Bangladeshi factory making clothing for Tommy Hilfiger.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory:

Thanks to decades of reform and creation of workplace safety laws,  the United States, generally speaking, is one hundred years ahead of countries like Bangladesh concerning workplace accidents and safety.  This disaster is nearly a reenactment of one of the United States’ most horrific workplace disasters.  On March 25, 1911, in New York City, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire became the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City.  Young women, most in their teens, were found dead by locked doors within the factory.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory doors had been locked from the outside to keep the workers in and union organizers out.  At least 146 garment workers died in this fire, some burned so badly that they were unrecognizable.

Some workers had died from smoke inhalation; many died from being crushed by other frantic workers trying to escape.   Others jumped from 9th and 10th story floors of the building to escape the flames and were instantly killed upon impact; some even impaled on a nearby iron fence that bordered the street by the building before they hit the ground.

In November of 1910, just months before this disaster, 20,000 young women had organized a general strike, protesting in the streets to condemn the unsafe working conditions in the dimly lit fire traps in which they had found employment.  The union eventually ran out of money, and the thinly clad garment workers who were not even able to afford coats were forced to return to work in order to provide for their daily existence.

A Factory Investigating Commission was created by the New York State Legislature to “investigate factory conditions in NYC and other cities and to report remedial measures of legislation to prevent hazard or loss of life among employees through fire, unsanitary conditions, and occupational diseases.”  The investigators found more than 200 New York factories were found to have conditions similar to those leading to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.  Today, these conditions still exist in China, Bangladesh, India, and other countries where workers’ rights to safety have been ignored in favor of maximum profits for the companies.

These reports helped modernize labor laws, making New York State “one of the most progressive states in terms of labor reform.” New laws mandated better building access and egress, fireproofing, availability of fire extinguishers, installation of alarm systems, automatic sprinklers, better eating and toilet facilities for workers, and limited the number of hours that women and children could work.  Eventually, organizations such as OSHA and AFL-CIO were created to represent American workers; much of that representation concerns their safety.

Workplace Personal Injury Lawyers’ Role in Enforcement of Workplace Safety Law

Workplace personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are dedicated to ensuring that business owners maintain OSHA’s high standards for workplace safety, and ensure that if they do attempt to skirt compliance, they suffer great punitive damages.  Unfortunately, the fear of reprisal is sometimes the only motivator for companies to maintain safety standards for their employees.

It has taken over two centuries of legal progress for this to happen.   Consider the untold number of injury victims from recent prior decades who received no compensation for their injuries because laws favored business and industry and practically ignored workers’ safety.

Modern-day companies including coal mines and gas drilling sites even now at times have the same tendencies as their predecessors — to take advantage of their workforce.  Like their predecessors, our modern-day companies don’t want to fairly compensate the people they injure or the families of the people they kill.   Just like in earlier times of corporate abuse, little to no compensation will be offered to injury victims who must nurse their own injuries with inadequate financial support.

Lawmakers normally respond to public sentiment; this is how our representative system of government works.   When enough interested citizens and injury victims voice support for better laws, it is up to the lawmakers to respond.   In recent decades there has been steady public support for better laws for injury victims.   But, corporations and insurance companies don’t want more restrictive safety requirements — that means more liability exposure.

In response, lawmakers have had to choose between helping the corporations make more money and helping injury victims get recoveries from wrongdoers.  Lawmakers thus far have not completely caved in to the desires of the corporations and insurance companies, because a majority of people have voiced their outrage over corporate greed and their role in causing an increase in incidents involving serious injuries and deaths.   Even so, it takes a constant flow of information to lawmakers about injury victims’ plights, and that’s where trial lawyers and their associations are effective in protecting your rights.

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers.  Call us today:  304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong:  WV Serious Injury Guide.


CONSOL Miner is Killed Near Morgantown, WV

A CONSOL Miner died on Thursday, September 13, 2012, after being seriously injured when he was struck by a large rock during a workplace accident along the track haulage at the Blacksville No. 2 mine.  According to the Dominion Post, the accident is under investigation and CONSOL is looking into what happened.

While the mine has a portal in West Virginia west of Blacksville, the bulk of the coal being mined is in Pennsylvania. The site of the accident will determine which state mine safety agency is involved.

CONSOL said it will provide updates on the accident as information becomes available and will work closely with federal and state mining officials to determine the cause of the incident.

West Virginia coal miners are among the hardest working professionals in America. Despite strong MSHA regulations, coal mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Every year, miners are injured or killed because the coal operators continue to circumvent or violate safety laws for the protection of the miners.

If your loved one has been injured or killed while working in or near a coal mine in West Virginia, you are entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits and other recoveries from the coal company for “deliberate intention” violations set forth in West Virginia law, Section 23-4-2. Moreover, you may also be entitled to seek a recovery for money damages from any third parties – like equipment manufacturers and subcontractors – that contributed to or caused your injuries.

Free Consultation · Contingency Fees · Don’t Lose Your Workers’ Comp Benefits

The Robinette Legal Group is recognized as one of the region’s most successful coal mining injury litigation firms. Our attorneys understand the regulations and we know how to look beneath the coal dust to find the true cause of the accident and the full extent of your injuries and financial damages that result. We work independently as your attorney or with your workers’ compensation lawyer to seek full and fair compensation from the insurance company that is liable for damages.  Call us today at 304-594-1800.

Two Contractors Suffer Burn Injuries at Harrison Power Station

HealthNet flew two people to the hospital after they suffered burns at the Harrison Power Station Friday afternoon.

The two contract workers from C&K Industrial who were injured while doing work at the Harrison Power Station in Haywood (Haywood Power Station) Friday have been treated at the West Penn Burn Center and released, according to First Energy Spokesman.  One of the workers was treated and released Friday evening, while the other was kept overnight for observation and was released Saturday morning.

HealthNet flew both victims to the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. First Energy said one of the victims suffered temperature burns on his arms and chest. He was treated and released. The second victim suffered small chemical burns on his face and is still in the hospital.
One had a temperature burn on his bicep and was treated and has since been released from West Penn Burn Center. He was originally going to be treated at Ruby Memorial Hospital, but plans changed mid-air.  The other worker suffered small burns on his face, and will be kept overnight for observation also at West Penn Burn Center.  The injuries are not life threatening.

First Energy is conducting an internal investigation.

For more information about workplace injuries or for help navigating through serious workplace injury claims, please visit our website or call Jeff Robinette at Robinette Legal Group, PLLC at 304-594-1800.

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Common Foot Injuries From Accidents

Workplace accidents, car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents often result in various types of foot injuries.  These injuries can be extremely debilitating and life changing.  Suddenly, through no fault of your own, you find that you can no longer enjoy activities that have been an important part of your life up to the time of the accident.  Often surgery, physical therapy, and weeks of limited activity are required for optimum healing.  Some of the most common foot injuries include compartment syndromes, fractures of the metatarsals, and fracture of the heel bone (calcaneus).

Acute Foot Injuries

Acute foot injuries that often result from work or motor vehicle accidents include severe bruising, torn ligaments, puncture wounds, ruptured tendons, joint sprains, muscle strains, as well as various types of broken, fractured, shattered, or dislocated bones.

Compartment Syndromes of the Foot

Ankle pain - detailCompartment syndromes of the foot typically result from workplace, industrial, agricultural, warehouse, and motor vehicle accidents.  When a heavy object runs over, crushes, or impacts the foot, swelling occurs along with severe pain. The foot structure consists of many small compartments.  These compartments are filled with muscles, nerves, and tendons and are lined by a tight membrane.  When an injury to the foot occurs, there is often some bleeding in the muscle tissue, causing the foot to swell and expand.   The lining of this membrane has a limited capacity to expand.  If the fluid and muscle swelling inside the compartment becomes significant, they may exceed the blood flow in and out of the small compartments.  If the pressure inside the compartment increases too much, the nerves and muscles start to get squeezed and stop functioning properly.

Metatarsal Fractures; Lisfranc Injury

Injuries to the metatarsal joints are quite common.  They can occur from something as simple as twisting your foot when stepping unevenly or may occur from more violent injuries such as a fall, work accident, or car accident that crush the metatarsals. Surgery is required in most of these injuries.  The broken or dislocated foot bones often need screws that are inserted internally into the bones across the joints for optimum healing.  If surgery is not performed, then a boot or a cast is used.  It can take eight to ten weeks for this fracture to heal with a 70% success rate using the cast.  Surgery has a better success rate with a six-week healing time.  The screws are typically left in for four to five months after the surgery and then removed.  No walking on the foot is permitted for six weeks, and then walking is allowed with a removable b oot for the next four weeks.  Swimming and biking are permitted early on after the surgery. If left untreated, full healing may never occur which means you will never return to your normal activities and which also may lead to painful arthritis that requires treatment.

Fracture of the Heel Bone (Calcaneus)

Fractures of the heel bone are debilitating injuries.  Usually, these fractures occur from car accidents and work accidents when a tremendous force crushes the heel and fragments the bone. Surgery is required to put the bone back together with a metal place and multiple screws.  This procedure decreases the likelihood of severe arthritis later on and maximizes the potential for a good recovery.  If the bone is severely crushed, the bone may also need to be fused.  Following the surgery, no walking on the foot is permitted for three months, and physical therapy is required.  Typical recovery time is about six months.  Occasionally, the surgery does not result in healing and must be repeated. Surgery on the heel  should be performed as soon as possible after the injury to prevent permanent widening and deformity of the heel in addition to chronic pain and arthritis.

Morgantown Accident Lawyers

If your foot or heel injury has resulted from an accident due to the negligence of another driver or your employer, please contact our office and we would be happy to evaluate whether we can help you gain compensation for  your pain, lost wages, and medical bills.  Jeff Robinette at the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV has helped many workplace accident and car accident victims get the recovery they need. Call today for your free consultation at (304)594-1800 or visit our website to learn more about navigating the legal process of recovering from your injuries.  If you are a WV accident victim, we would be glad to send a free book to your home, or make an immediate download of one of our three books available to you for no cost or obligation.

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WV Worker Killed in Elevator Accident at Preston Memorial Hospital

A Tunnelton, WV man died instantly Monday morning in an elevator shaft at Preston Memorial Hospital while on duty with the maintenance department.  Preston County Sheriff ’s deputies and OSHA are investigating what appears to have been an accident.  A spokesman of Preston Memorial said the employee “was killed in the course of his job duties” and had worked at the hospital for six years.  She further commented,  “He was a valuable member of our team. It is a very sad time for Preston Memorial Hospital.”  The accident victim is survived by his wife of thirty years and a daughter in Terra Alta, WV, a son who attends WVU, and a grandchild.  

Sgt. R.V. Turner, of the Preston County Sheriff ’s Department, said he is continuing the investigation into the death and will continue to interview those who witnessed Monday’s accident.

Kingwood firefighters and a KAMP Ambulance crew were called to the hospital, on South Price Street in Kingwood, at about 11:36 a.m. Monday for the elevator rescue.   So far, the results of the investigation indicate that Likens had climbed into the elevator shaft to retrieve a set of keys, and was impacted by the elevator as it moved through that shaft.  Likens was pronounced dead at the scene. Turner said he died instantly.

Submitted by http://www.robinettelaw.com, workplace injury/wrongful death lawyers.

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