Don Blankenship American Flag

97% of Americans agree: Massey CEO Don Blankenship should wear this all the time.

After yesterday’s hearing on new mine and workplace safety legislation in the House – legislation necessary because of the negligence of Don Blankenship‘s Massey Energy in the deaths of 29 miners earlier this year – Massey Energy’s press office made a funny.

In order to combat the clear evidence that Massey puts profits over worker safety, the coal company thought it would be a good idea to show just how supportive miners are of the company’s record. Massey claims 97% of its coal miners believe safety is important to the company.

Before testimony ended on Capitol Hill, Massey officials issued a news release stating that “an independently conducted and confidential survey” showed that 97 percent of its underground miners believe safety is important to Massey.

“The results directly contradict accusations that Massey Energy is indifferent to safety,” the release stated.

I can see it now: Massey sends someone with a clipboard down into the mines under the auspices of an “independent, confidential survey” to ask the guys slaving away underground, in the dark, for hours on end, if they think Massey considers safety important. Even if it was a phone or in person survey, what do you think the miners will say? Their paychecks are on the line. There’s a well-documented history of Massey firing people who complain about the lack of safety prioritization. I’m surprised even 3% said Massey doesn’t care about safety, though I suppose it’s within the margin of error.

Ninety-seven percent! I don’t think they had that kind of unity in Kremlin elections.

UPDATE: Massey posted some of the results on their website. This is pretty funny. Miners were given forms to fill out and the beginning and end of their shifts. What do you expect them to say?

An independently conducted and confidential survey of Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE) underground miners shows that 97 percent believe that “safety is important to the company.”

In addition, 90 percent of those surveyed said “yes” when asked if they are “satisfied that this organization responds and resolves Member complaints about safety.”

The results directly contradict accusations that Massey Energy is indifferent to safety and that its members are afraid to report safety problems for fear of being punished.

The survey, conducted by Opinion Access Corp., of Long Island City, N.Y., also found that 91 percent believe that the company’s S-1 (Safety First) program makes Massey mines safer places to work than competitors’ mines and safer than required by law.

Representatives of Opinion Access, which has done no previous work for Massey Energy, carried out the three-day survey at 46 Massey-owned mines. A total of 2,092 Massey miners filled out the survey form as they were starting or ending a work shift. No identifying information was asked of or provided by the miners.

The findings include:

  • 89 percent of the miners surveyed answered “yes” to the statement, “I feel free to go to a ‘higher boss’ than my immediate supervisor to discuss any problems.”
  • 92 percent are aware that the company has an anonymous hotline to report safety concerns.
  • 76 percent said “no” when asked, “Are you afraid of being disciplined or fired if you raise safety concerns?”
  • 79 percent agreed that “this organization considers work safety to be of greater importance than production.”
  • 94 percent agree that Massey “is committed to safety in the workplace,” and 96 percent agree that their “immediate supervisor” and “superintendent” are committed to safety.
  • 96 percent agree that the “company stresses proper safety procedures.”

Jeff Gillenwater, Vice President-Human Resources for Massey Energy, said the survey results were heartening in light of outside claims that the company puts coal production and profits before workers and their safety.

“Massey miners had a full opportunity in this survey to express any concerns they have about safety and we believe they would have been particularly willing to speak up since they did not have to identify themselves. Importantly, a large majority reported that they believe the company puts safety first and that when they see a safety problem, they can report it without fear of reprisal,” Gillenwater said. “And that’s just the way we want it.”