An eastern Kentucky coal miner who reported unsafe work conditions is now facing sanctions by the state.
Mackie Bailey is a longtime roof bolting machine operator who worked at Manalapan Mining’s P-1 mine in Harlan County. For several weeks, Bailey says he and other miners had been working without a required safety device called the Automated Temporary Roof Support (ATRS), which is supposed to brace against the roof of the mine and protect miners from a potential roof collapse.
Finally, Bailey refused to work under the unsafe conditions, and reported them to the state. Now, he’s facing one year probation of his miner certificate because technically it’s a violation of mine safety laws to operate the machine without the ATRS.
Lexington mine safety attorney Tony Oppegard is representing Bailey. He says the state’s case is short-sighted and could discourage future whistleblowers.
“What’s happened is the state has turned around and filed disciplinary charges against the whistleblower who informed them of the unsafe conditions in the first place,” he said. “It’s not just, it’s not right.”
A day after Bailey refused to continue working under the unsafe conditions, coal miner David Partin was killed in an unrelated accident at the same mine. Oppegard says Bailey’s whistleblowing and testimony helped the federal government indict three of the mine’s officers and the company itself.
Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing spokeswoman Linda Potter says the office has “never, ever put mining companies above the safety of miners.” She says that much more about the case will be brought to light as it moves forward through the Mine Safety Review Commission.