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Workplace safety accidents underfunded, underpublicized

The silver lining of the mine explosion in West Virginia that has left at least 25 people dead and four missing is the added attention to mine safety—and workplace safety as a whole.

The Huffington Post today featured a story about all of the workplace safety accidents that aren’t widely publicized.

“Indeed, 16 American workers die every single day, on average, at the workplace, and the federal agencies tasked with making sure that doesn’t happen need more resources and more tools to combat such tragedies,” wrote Huffington Post’s David Dayen.

Want to hear about more about them? Public Citizen now tracks developments in workplace health and safety, from accidents to policy changes. Sign up now for daily e-mailed updates.

Unfortunately, mine safety is not a new issue. Just last year, Public Citizen highlighted the huge backlog of unheard mine safety cases (13,000 a year ago, 18,000 now), and called on Congress to allocate more money to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the government agency tasked with ruling on mine safety violations, to make more judicial hires. Many of these unheard cases are appeals–a tactic companies use to avoid paying fines for safety violations.

Perhaps if the agency had received the proper funding, Massey Energy, the company that owns the West Virginia mine, would not have gotten away with its dozens of violations. In fact, the company was slapped with two citations the very day of Monday’s explosion.