Gov. Joe Manchin announced the creation of a hotline that West Virginians can call if they feel threatened by workplace safety issues.
“I want every miner and every worker in the state of West Virginia to be empowered,” Manchin said. “If you believe you have absolutely no avenue, no vehicle in the structure of the company where you work … please call us.”
The hotline will be staffed around the clock, seven days a week by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The state already operates a 24-hour hot line to report mining and industrial accidents.
Workers can place anonymous calls to the workplace safety hot line. The number is 1-866-808-0875.
The announcement comes a little more than a month after 29 miners died in an April 5 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine. Investigators are looking at safety issues in the Raleigh County mine.
On Thursday, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said it would not convene a public hearing in the early stages of its investigation into the worst coal mining-related accident in 40 years. The agency plans to conduct much of its initial investigation behind closed doors, then later hold two public hearings and other forums for public input.
Manchin said he would have preferred that all aspects of the investigation be open to the public. But he said he was told that the investigation could be expedited by allowing “people to speak more freely and openly” during closed sessions.
The investigation needs to be done quickly and efficiently, said Manchin, who added he has not talked to MSHA officials since Thursday’s announcement.
“The wishes of the state of West Virginia is for the public to hear as soon as possible,” he said.
“If you see you are not getting the cooperation and it’s not proving to be beneficial, stop the process immediately” and hold open sessions, Manchin said.
Meanwhile, levels of toxic gases inside the Upper Big Branch mine are keeping investigators at bay. Manchin said that phase of the investigation can’t start until crews can enter the mine without having to wear portable oxygen equipment.
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