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Workplace fatalities lead to jail time for executive

The former president of the company in charge of the Upper Big Branch Mine has been sentenced to three and a half years behind bars for what he admits was a practice of covering up dangerous conditions at the mine. A federal investigation revealed that executives and managers within the companies that owned and operated the mine had actively worked to conceal dangerous conditions from mine safety inspectors and that this practice led to the explosion that left 29 mine workers dead.

This case shows the various ways in which management can influence workplace safety and how important it is to report dangerous conditions to regulators. Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers and they have a duty to make safe any dangerous conditions that they are aware of. If an employer fails to do this to a reckless or grossly negligent extent, they could be liable in a personal injury action.

Personal injury actions are not available in all workplace injury cases. Often workers compensation is the only remedy for workers who are injured on the job. However, when someone dies or suffers from serious bodily harm, many states allow them to pursue an injury claim.

In the case of this mining accident, executives were found to have been so reckless in their treatment of worker safety that many have also faced criminal liability. Federal investigators are continuing to pursue the case and some expect that the CEO of the company that owns the mine will eventually be charged with a crime.

Source: Washington Post, "Judge sentences former Massey official to 3.5 years in prison in W. Va. mine-safety conspiracy," Sept. 10, 2013. 

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