Massey Energy owns the Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers died in April. Transocean owns the oil rig that blew up earlier this year, killing 11 workers and causing an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Aside from recent disasters, what do these companies have in common? Government safety awards.

From the Washington Post:

Worker safety advocates say the awards – given, in some instances, to companies involved in disasters – show the dangers posed when federal agencies become too cozy with the industries they regulate.


“This allows companies to promote themselves a certain way. Shareholders and employees are told: ‘The government thinks we are safe,’ ” said Celeste Monforton, a former senior official at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and assistant research professor in occupational health at George Washington University. “It can potentially be used as a shield against criticism when problems arise.”

Which is what happened after the Upper Big Branch mine exploded this spring. Within days, the MSHA released an 11-page report it wrote for President Obama detailing Massey’s safety record that characterized it as “troublesome.”

Massey immediately pointed to the three Sentinels of Safety awards it won six months earlier from the MSHA and the National Mining Association. It was the most a mining company had received in a single year from the awards program, which dates to Herbert Hoover’s administration.

(h/t Rural Blog)