The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that – for the first time since reforms began in 2010 – none of the nation’s more than 13,000 mining operations meets the criteria for a Pattern of Violations (POV) notice.
Part of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, the POV provision is one of MSHA’ s toughest enforcement tools – reserved for mines that pose the greatest risk to the health and safety of miners, particularly those with chronic violation records.
“The Pattern of Violations regulation is a law that works to rein in chronic violators and protect miners,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “It is achieving its purpose to improve mine operators’ compliance with safety and health standards and enable them to monitor their own compliance.”
In 2010, MSHA launched its series of POV reforms and identified 51 mines that met the screening criteria for further consideration for a POV notice. Five years later, only one coal mine met the criteria for further review.
Main noted significant improvements in violation and injury rates at mines that underwent the POV process. The number of significant and substantial violations issued at those mines declined 66 percent, unwarrantable failure violations decreased 84 percent, total violations fell 42 percent, and the operator-reported rate of lost-time injures dropped 55 percent.
“MSHA’s actions have helped drive better compliance well beyond just the mines that met the criteria for further consideration for a POV notice,” said Main. For the 200 mines with the most significant and substantial violations, those violations dropped 54 percent between 2010 and 2016. These same mines also saw a 38 percent reduction in total violations, and a 64 percent decrease in elevated enforcement actions, such as closure orders for imminent dangers or unwarrantable failures to comply with health and safety standards.
“We have seen a cultural change in the mining industry where high numbers of serious violations at mines are no longer tolerated,” said Main.
The 1977 Mine Act authorizes MSHA to issue a POV notice to mine operators that demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of significant and substantial violations. It requires mines that receive POV notices to be issued withdrawal orders – temporarily ceasing operations until the violation is abated – for all S&S violations.
In January 2013, MSHA published its final POV rule to strengthen safety measures in the nation’s most dangerous mines. The regulation enables MSHA to consider mitigating circumstances before issuing a POV notice and encourages mines to implement a corrective action program if they are approaching a POV.
In recent years, MSHA developed two online tools to help mine operators monitor compliance – the POV monitoring tool, which alerts mine operators that they meet the screening criteria and should take proper corrective actions; and the S&S rate calculator that enables mine operators to monitor their S&S violations.