Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main said that operator compliance is up, stating that the percentage of inspections resulting in zero citations rose to 25 percent in 2015 from an average of 20 percent.
Main announced the news at a Dec. 1 stakeholder meeting at Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) headquarters in Arlington, Va, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).
To further illustrate improved compliance, he said that only one facility qualified for a Pattern of Violation (POV) designation but a subsequent review of that facility showed it did not deserve POV status. The agency highlighted some NSSGA members that have implemented innovative programs to boost compliance.
- Hilltop Basic Resources arranged for workers to conduct safety audits of Hilltop facilities they do not work in, as workers unfamiliar with a facility may detect potential hazards that may be overlooked by others.
- Lehigh Hanson created an off-site safety conference to which the company invited MSHA personnel. Essential safety information was then disseminated to all company employees in an MSHA district.
- Martin Marietta’s “Guardian Angel” program encourages workers, regardless of position, to speak up if they witness an unsafe environment or activity and thus protect co-workers.
- A Vulcan Materials Co. safety program tests how well employees conduct workplace exams by inserting “dummy” hazards into them.
MSHA stated that it received positive feedback from its directive that inspectors conduct “walk and talk” discussions on hazards with operators. Additionally, the agency plans to increase the number of best practices they send to the industry. MSHA was encouraged to see a reduction in serious accidents that did not cause a fatality by sending out information on near-miss incidents.
However, not all of the statistics shared at the meeting were positive. MSHA stated that it directed Educational and Field Service (EFS) support to almost 8,000 mines, but only 45 percent of those were small operations with 10 or fewer employees.
This is troublesome because of MSHA’s previous assurances that small mines would benefit from the combination of offices. “A higher percentage of EFS’s services should be directed to small mines, which are the facilities most in need of compliance assistance,” said Joseph Casper, NSSGA vice president of safety.