The Centralia Mine Essay
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The Centralia Mine opened in 1907 and remained free of fatal accidents for decades (Walker, 2006). By the 1940’s mine inspectors began reporting excessive coal dust in the mines and also provided recommendations. In March 25, 1947, the Centralia No. 5 coal mine exploded near the town of Centralia, Illinois, killing 111 people. The explosion was caused when an under burdened explosive detonation ignited coal dust. The explosion of this mine should not have been a surprise to anyone.
Driscoll Scanlan, who was a state mine inspector, notified public sector safety professionals from state and federal agencies of the hazards as a result of inspections.
There were also union complaints and letters to state officials. Various officials of mine safety agencies and the mine company were notified on more than one occasion. Scanlan as well as the mine’s union had also pushed to have the hazards corrected. The lack of the federal and state officials to take action, along with the ignition of built up coal dust, resulted in the death of 111 coal miners.
Identify and explain four (4) logistical alternatives Scanlan could have addressed. In 1941, Illinois Governor Dwight Green appointed Driscoll Scanlan, as one of the states 16 mine inspectors. Scanlan was highly recommended by a state representative (Martin, 1948). He was appointed as the inspector of the district which included Centralia Mine No. 5. State inspectors jobs include making sure mine operators comply with the state mining law (Stillman, 2010). His first inspection of Centralia No. 5 was in 1942.
In his first report, his recommendations included cleaning and sprinkling the haulage roads. Scanlan inspected the mine several times in the years before the explosion. At the end of each inspection he sent his report to the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals. Several of his reports throughout 1942-1944 repeated his previous recommendations and added new one. In one of the latter ones, he recommended that the mine be rocked dusted (Stillman, 2010). In follow up to his reports, he should have inquired with the Director for the status of his recommendations.
When he found that none of them were taken care of, he could have let the miners know what the issues were and helped fix the areas in which there were problems. Scanlan could have also worked with the union to push fixing the mine or shutting it down until repaired. When he made the threat to shut them down, the company started to fix some of the problems that were indicated in his reports. The changes that the company made to the mines were only temporary. His only other option would be to try to sprinkle the roads and help with the rock dusting.
Analyze and discuss Scanlan’s motivation toward the Constitution (the law), bureaucracy (as a public administrator responsible to the public), and obligation. Scanlan carried out the duties of inspecting the mines. He reported his findings to the Department of Mines and Minerals and the State Mining Board (Stillman, 2010). Scanlan was truly an advocate for the miners. He, unlike some the other inspectors, did not get involved in the political aspects with the companies. Many of the inspectors would have drinks with the company officials and provide brief inspection reports.
Scanlan was quite different. Scanlan talked to the miners and made sure that their complaints were included in his inspection reports (Stillman, 2010). The local union expressed their concerns to the State of Illinois in response to the findings of the special investigation commission (Stillman, 2010). They also followed up with a letter to Governor Green, thanking Scanlan for taking the issues to Prudent the Superintendent and local officials on their behalf (Stillman, 2010). Scanlan made 13 inspections and reports, each were reported to the Department of Mining and Minerals.
Most of his reports were dismissed and responded to as not being as serious as it seems. Take a position on two (2) possible paths of action for Scanlan and defend your choices. Business and political gain played a critical role in the conditions that led to the accidents. Although Scanlan provided numerous reports, his superiors down played the seriousness of his recommendations. They seemed to be more concerned about keeping the officials happy. The lack of attention given to the seriousness of the inspection reports provided by Scanlan proved to be detrimental to the miners.
His inspection reports were ignored by state mining officials and mine company supervisors. Scanlan’s first course of action should have been to shut down the mine. Being a state inspector, he had the authority to shut down a mine if there were violations that had been brought to the company’s attention, but not addressed in a reasonable amount of time. This action, in my opinion, would have been the best course of action. An alternative course of action would have been to go the officials that are higher than the state and federal officials that he was dealing with.
He had performed enough inspections, over the course of 3 years, and found that if the mining conditions were not improved, that fatalities would eventually occur at this mine (Saleh, 2011). The state and federal officials were more concerned about continuing business. They did not take into consideration the seriousness of the inspection reports that Scanlan was continually providing them with. The lack of their follow through and the dismissing of his recommendations would have been taking more seriously by someone at a higher level.
I feel that they would have stepped in and taken action that may have saved the lives of the miners. This disaster followed by another mining disaster in 1968 caused Congress to become more aggressive with mining companies by passing the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act in 1969 (Ward, 2007). Unfortunately it took another terrible mining incident to get them to notice how important it is for higher officials to make companies follow the recommendations of mining inspectors.