What are coal slurries, and why do they put those who work around them
in danger? What are employers doing to mitigate these dangers? These very
questions have been posed to a Pennsylvania employer whose coal slurry
pond in a closely neighboring state was recently the location of a tragic
construction site accident. The slurry collapsed and caused a bulldozer and its driver to sink into
the sludge. The accident happened on November 30 and, as of December 11,
the employee had not yet been found.
Slurry is a byproduct of a certain type of coal, which helps it burn more
cleanly; the slurry is disposed of in numerous ways. At this site, the
slurry is damned in large ponds. Federal regulators have allowed this
disposal process for years. The companies continue to pile more and more
sludge on top of other coal waste. The slurry pond that was the site of
this recent accident has a size and capacity equivalent to about 2,500
Olympic swimming pools.
The accident that happened on November 30 involved three workers. Fortunately,
two of the workers were able to escape, but, tragically, the third was
not so lucky. The employees were working around a section of an embankment
at the slurry pond when slurry weakened and gave way. Two workers escaped
as their pickup trucks became engulfed in the slurry. A third man operating
a bulldozer could not escape in time. He and his machinery have yet to be found.
Employers are required to maintain as safe a workplace as possible for
their employees. When accidents happen and an employee is injured on the
job, that employer is required to provide the employee with workers'
compensation benefits if his or her injury qualifies them for that recovery.
These benefits may cover items such as medical bills, lost wages and other
When someone is killed on the job, the situation becomes a bit different.
That person's family may be able to file a wrongful death claim to
recover compensation to assist the family with some of the injury expenses
and other financial obligations that result from the loved one's death.
This slurry accident is such a tragic event, and nothing will bring back
the family's loved one. But hopefully, the family will be able to
be compensated, which would at least some compensation will hopefully
help to ease some of the financial pain.
Source: claimsjournal.com, "Critic Questions Way Coal Firms Build Slurry Ponds," Vicki Smith, Dec. 11, 2012