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NSSGA Tells MSHA to Pursue Risk-Based Enforcement

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association's (NSSGA) message to MSHA at a recent stakeholder meeting was clear. “MSHA enforcement should focus on areas of greatest risk,” said Joseph Casper, NSSGA vice president for safety, at the Charlotte, N.C., meeting on Oct. 22.

MSHA Administrator Joe Main, Metal/Nonmetal Administrator Neal Merrifield and Southeast District Manager Sam Pierce attended the meeting along with industry stakeholders to discuss regulation and safety.

Casper called on MSHA to make further improvements in enforcement consistency, echoing NSSGA’s congressional testimony from the previous day, and reminded the agency leaders that citations should not be issued unless inspectors see an actual violation of the Mine Act.

“NSSGA continues to learn of inspectors declaring that an inspection will not be citation-free before the inspection has even begun,” Casper said. “We appreciate the improvements made in the Southeast District in recent years to bolster enforcement consistency as well as positive and constructive outreach to stakeholders. This makes a tangible difference in managing for safety and compliance.”

Casper also called for MSHA to be reasonable in development of new regulations, citing the troubling proposal on civil penalties as an example. The agency modified various facets of the proposal’s gravity provision after NSSGA’s testimony on the matter. The original proposal called for the gravity of a violation to be determined in a broader scope of a possible event that could lead to an injury, the revised version dropped the qualifier of an event being necessary.

“NSSGA was pleased to see this progress on a proper narrowing of the circumstances in which an alleged violation could be cited,” Casper said.

There are ways that NSSGA and MSHA work together to improve industry safety, Casper reminded the stakeholders. The MSHA-NSSGA Alliance Technical Task Force works to promote safer practices, such as protecting workers from falls from platforms and mobile equipment.

The Task Force has also improved MSHA inspector training by providing operator insights on compliance with regulations, so that inspectors learn how inconsistent enforcement practices make it difficult for operators to manage for safety.