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MSHA Rings Alarm Bells


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration will convene a meeting of mine industry stakeholders this week in the wake of a dramatic increase in metal and nonmetal mining deaths. The meeting will address the causes of recent deaths, identify actions needed to prevent them, and work to reverse the trend.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been nine fatalities in the metal and nonmetal sector. Nine of the 22 metal and nonmetal deaths that occurred in 2013 happened in the fourth quarter.

“The recent news on the rise in mining fatalities is disturbing,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “We plan to engage all of our tools: enforcement, education and training, and technical support, to respond to this trend.”

“It is clear that, at some of the operations involved, basic health and safety protections are not always in place,” Main said. “MSHA will provide operators with specific information on the causes and particular issues surrounding each of these deaths, and we will discuss actions needed to prevent these types of fatalities in the future.”

MSHA also announced that federal inspectors issued 152 citations, 14 orders and one safeguard during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and three metal and nonmetal mines in March.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. The inspection details of two mines are listed below:

On March 18, MSHA conducted an impact inspection at Peabody Midwest Mining LLC’s Francisco Underground Pit, located in Gibson County, Ind. The inspection party traveled to the mine and, upon arrival, monitored the mine’s communications system to prevent advance notice of the inspection. Six 104(a) citations and five 104(d)(1) unwarrantable failure orders were issued. This was the first impact inspection at this mine.

MSHA began an impact inspection on March 25 at the Essroc Cement Corp. in Berkeley County, W.Va. MSHA issued four citations to Essroc Cement Corp., and 17 citations and one order to several contractors on site.

Inspectors issued a 104(g)(1) order withdrawing 32 contract miners from the mine because they did not receive proper training from an MSHA-approved trainer. An unattended skid steer fork lift was observed parked with the forks used to lift the front tires off the ground, an unsafe method of preventing a parked fork lift from moving. The operator also was cited for a miner working approximately 25 ft. above ground without fall protection. Four citations were issued for the failure to install whip checks (air hose safety cables) on high-pressure hoses.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 739 impact inspections and issued 12,122 citations, 1,109 orders and 51 safeguards.