GAMING INSPECTIONS: “When an MSHA inspector comes onto a Massey mine property, the code words go out ‘we’ve got a man on the property’,” Gary Quarles, father of an Upper Big Branch miner killed in the April 5 explosion, told a Congressional hearing this week.

“Those words are radioed from the guard gates and relayed to all working operations in the mine. The mine superintendent and foreman communicate regularly by phone, and there are signals that require the foreman who is underground to answer the phone. That is one way that the message is conveyed that an inspector is on the property. When the word goes out, all effort is made to correct any deficiencies or direct the inspector’s attention away from any deficiencies."

ETHICAL LAPESES: Report issued this week by the Department of the Interior Inspector General on ethical lapses at the Minerals Management Service (MMS) between 2000 and 2008 focuses on one office: MMS’ Lake Charles, LA, district office from 2000-2008.

“Among other things, staffers in the office were found to have accepted sport event tickets, lunches, and other gifts from oil and gas production companies and used government computers to view pornography. Some of these staffers were tasked with inspections of offshore drilling platforms located in the Gulf of Mexico.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “This deeply disturbing report is further evidence of the cozy relationship between some elements of MMS and the oil and gas industry.” – Secretary of the Interior Salazaar.

“We cannot succumb to defeatism and cynicism when it comes to the lives of our fellow human beings.” – Rep. George Miller (D-CA) at Congressional hearing in Beckley, W.VA on April 5th Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

“Well, to push BP out of the way would raise the question to replace them with what?” – National Incident Commander of Gulf oil spill Admiral Thad Allen.

WILLFUL NEGLECT: OSHA this week proposed $63,000 in penalties against The De Moya Group Inc. in Miami, Fla., for posting a reduced speed limit sign for a lane closure but failing to remove or cover the existing speed limit sign on Interstate 75. OSHA area director in Fort Lauderdale calls it “blatant disregard” for workers’ safety.

UNDER-REPORTING: Official estimates missed 77 percent of work-related amputations in Michigan in 2007, according to researchers at Michigan State University. In contrast to the official estimate of 160 amputations, the study identified 708, mostly involving the loss of fingers. “Amputations should be a pretty obvious type of event,” Dr. Kenneth Rosenman, an epidemiologist and one of the authors, said in an interview.

“In the last 20 years, I and others have researched and published multiple studies that the current system provides an inaccurate count of work-related illness and non-fatal injuries. There is no disagreement in the medical literature that an undercount exists and that this undercount is significant.”