In our last post, we detailed the fatal pinning of a coalminer under the machinery that he was operating at the Willow Lake Mine in southern Illinois the weekend before Thanksgiving. The Nov. 17 accident at work stopped all activity at that worksite and it was recently announced that the 400-worker Illinois mine will be closed due to its inability to meet standards surrounding safety, compliance and performance.
According to a spokesperson for the company responsible for the decision to close the mine that witnessed the workplace death of the 30-year-old, “The loss of a fellow worker is a loss to all of us and can never be acceptable. The decision (to close Willow Lake) is based on a number of performance issues, with safety among them.”
Workplace safety is absolutely imperative, particularly in jobs of this nature that involve heavy machinery. When a worker is injured in a workplace accident due to an oversight in safety, Illinois law requires that an employer’s workers compensation insurance provide the injured employee with medical care and income replacement benefits. Further, when a victim is killed, workers’ compensation death benefits could provide spouses and dependents with some income replacement and burial costs as well.
Beyond the human toll, which should be of very high concern for all employers, allowing oversights in safety can leave a company liable to heavy fines and even closure, as is the case here. The county where this mine is located is currently facing higher-than-average unemployment rates, so the closure is also a hit to an already depressed community that now has a number of additional unemployed workers due to this mine’s oversight in safety.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “Peabody Energy Corp (BTU: New York),” Nov. 28, 2012