The Blast in Centralia No. 5: A Mine Disaster No One Stopped In 1907, two miles south of Centralia, Illinois was the Centralia Mine No. 5. The Mine was there to provide coal during World War II. This particular mine employed 250 men and produced 2,000 tons of coal each day. During the next several years there were several complaints made regarding the safety of the mine. On March 25, 1947, the mine exploded, killing 111 miners. (Stillman, 2010) Driscoll O. Scanlan was one of the 16 state mine inspectors. Scanlan worked at The Centralia Mine No. as teen years before he became a mine inspector. Upon his inspections of the mine, Scanlan realized the mine was very hazardous. He became very active with voicing his concerns, which faced the workers safety, and made several reports for there to be corrections done to the mine. One of the main concerns was the coal dust. One of the workers reported the dust covering their shoes and another stated he would cough up chunks of coal once he left work (Stillman, 2010). This build up of coal dust could cause an explosion at any moment.
Scanlan inspected the mine several times before the explosion in 1947 and recommended that the sprinkling and haulage roads be cleaned. “Many public sector safety professionals from state and federal agencies knew of the hazards as a result of inspections, union complaints and letters to state officials” (www. usmra. com/repository/best-of-the-best_newsletter_article). Scanlan knew that as a mine inspector and public administrator it was his main priority to ensure the safety of the mine and its compliance with the mining laws.
Even though Scanlan sent is findings and his reports to The Department of Mines and Minerals in Illinois I feel that Scanlan could have done more to prevent this fatality (Martin 2000). In my opinion if Scanlan was not receiving the answers that he wanted he should have gone higher, until someone did something about this issue. As a public administrator Scanlan should not have been concerned about the “politics” that were involved but concerned about the welfare of the people and the community. As the nspector Scanlan could have had this mine shut down on several occasions, as he told the director of the state mining board. When Scanlan saw after the sprinklers as well as the clean up was not sufficient that should have been enough to close the mine. But Scanlan was not the only person to blame. The Centralia Coal Company, which owned The Centralia Mine Number 5 also played a huge role along with the Department of Mines and Minerals. I believe that they all played a role because The Centralia Coal Company should focus on the workers. In order to have a successful business you must have able workers.
Also, the Department of Mines and Minerals received several letters of complaint and reports stating that the mine was very dangerous and the dust was very concerning to a lot of the workers, the managers, and the inspectors. Each time a letter would be received an inspector would be sent to investigate (I believe at some point they should have taken control and enforced the recommendations set by Scanlan. A possible path of action that Scanlan could have taken would have been to ensure that the mine was actually meeting protocol and correcting the hazards that were indicated.
If these hazards had not been corrected then to possibly try to assess fines or penalties. There were letters that were sent stating for the company to correct certain hazards. Some of these hazards had been corrected temporarily but nothing permanently to ensure the adequate safety of the workers. As the public official and inspector, it was Scanlan’s job to ensure that safety procedures and policies were being followed. In one aspect it may have looked like he was doing all that he could with reaching out to the director but persistence was very pertinent in this instance.
For example, in January 1947, the CMA sent a letter to the director of Centralia Number 5 asking them to correct some of its hazards by February 1947. The CMA received a follow up stating that everything had been corrected. Another letter was sent from the CMA asking for details in March of 1947. On March 25, 1947 the explosion occurred (Martin 1948). I believe that if someone actually went to inspect these corrections that were made the explosion or the 111 causalities could have been avoided.
Another possible path of action that Scanlan could have taken was to make his concerns public. Scanlan’s job is to serve as a public official. Therefore, in my opinion, it is all right in certain instances to make the public aware of potential dangers that may affect them and/or their loved ones. Scanlan had a lot of information and notes stating that the mine had hazardous conditions, were unsafe, and could possibly explode if the correct actions were not taken. This is the type of information I feel like the public needs to be made aware of.
This could have possibly caused an outcry from the public to correct these conditions, as they are concerned about the well being of the people in the community and its workers. The Centralia Number 5 explosion was definitely an incident that occurred but could have been prevented with the guidance and persistence of public officials such as Scanlan. As a public administrator, and employer, or a supervisor it is your due diligence to first comply with policies and procedures set to ensure the safety of your workers.
If there is being push back then you must be persistent, especially if you know that you are in hazardous conditions. Public officials are in place for the people. As an official for the people you should always make your concerns known and should make it your priority to do your due diligence to help protect those whom trust you with their lives. Alexander, D. W. , Bealko, S. B. , Branicle, M. J. , Kowalski-Trakolfler, K. M. & Peters, R. H. (2010). Research on strategies for escape and rescue from underground coalmines. Department of Health and Human Services.
Retrieved from http://www. usmra. com/repository/category/mine_emergency/Strategies_for_Escape_and_Rescue. pdf Martin, J. B. (1948, March). The blast in Centralia No. 5. Harper’s Magazine, 1-38. Martin, J. B. (2000). The blast in Centralia No. 5: A mine disaster no one stopped. In R. J. Stillman, Public administration concepts and cases (7th ed. ), pp. 31-45. New York: Houghton Mifflin Stillman, R. J. III (2010). Public administration concepts and cases. New York: Houghton Mifflin. U. S. Department of Interior. (1947). Final report of mine explosion No. 5 Mine Centralia Coal