Kevin Drumm relays an interesting post from Ellen Smith, editor of Mine Safety and Health News, about the unfolding mining disaster in West Virginia:

How bad was the accident and injury rate at the Sago Mine? Terrible. The national average for mining accidents (non-fatal days lost) in 2004 was 5.66 per 200,000 manhours worked. The Sago Mine, which was owned by Anker West Virginia Mining Co. at that time, had an accident rate of 15.90. In 2005, Sago's accident rate increased to 17.04, and 14 miners were injured.

So how does that compare to other underground coal mines in West Virginia?

* Kingston Mining No. 1 Mine, which is about the same size as Sago, had an accident rate of 1.21 and one miner injured in 2005.

* Mountaineer Alma A Mine, which is a larger mine, had an accident rate of 3.08.

* Robinson Run Mine No. 95 and the Harris No. 1 Mine both had accident rates of 3.93.

* The Blacksville No. 2 Mine last year had an accident rate of 4.41 and the Loveridge No. 22 Mine had an accident rate of 5.62.

All of these mines were below the national average. One has to ask what was happening at the Sago Mine or its sister mine, Stony River, which had an even higher accident rate than Sago.

MSHA was issuing citations, but nothing seemed to change, and at the Sago Mine things got worse in 2005.

The backdrop to this disaster is the assault on OSHA and worker health and safety laws over the last 25 years, and on the unions that fight to keep these protections in place.

As usual, Jordan has more essential background at Confined Space -- including the Top 10 Worker Health and Safety Stories of 2005, as a reminder that this isn't an isolated incident.