House and Senate Democrats unveiled a mine safety reform bill on June 29. A House Education and Labor Committee hearing is likely to be scheduled after the July 4 recess, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association reports
House and Senate Democrats unveiled a mine safety reform bill on June 29. A House Education and Labor Committee hearing is likely to be scheduled after the July 4 recess, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association reports.
On July 1, Rep George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced HR 5663. As House chief labor counsel Richard Miller told an NSSGA-led ad hoc mine safety group last week, the proposed bill is intended to be remedial, not punitive, and directed at recidivist offenders, according to NSSGA. The bill includes provisions that will affect all mining sectors including:?
- Overhaul of the pattern of violation to clarify ambiguity and to ensure that the nation's most dangerous mine operations improve safety dramatically but pattern system is vague, penalties are doubled during status;
- Subpoena power extended to any of the functions under this Act, no criteria or limitations;
- ?S&S redefined to apply if there is a reasonable possibility that such violation could result in injury, illness or death, eliminates requirement that injury be of a reasonably serious nature;?
- Ensuring irresponsible operators are held accountable through increases in maximum criminal and civil penalties, maximum civil penalty for S&S increased to $150,000;
- Criminal liability changed from willful to knowing, which is not defined, first violation is now a felony, advance notice of inspections would be become a felony;?
- Increasing MSHA's accountability by requiring an independent investigation of most serious accidents and a requirement that mine personnel are well-qualified and ensure that inspections are comprehensive and well-targeted;
- Pre-shift reviews of conditions and communications to ensure that appropriate safety information is transmitted;?
- Penalties increased for retaliation against whistleblowers;?
- Prejudgment interest for challenged citations, not escrow; and?,
- Certification required in all states.
The bill already has the backing of the administration.
ìThe legislation introduced today by Congressman Miller represents an historic step to strengthen safety laws for our nationís miners," said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "The bill contains key provisions that will empower miners to speak up about hazards in the workplace. It also gives the Mine Safety and Health Administration additional tools the agency can use against mine operators who continue to put their workers at risk.
ìThere is a tremendous need for swift action on this legislation, as we learned today of a man who died while working in a West Virginia coal mine. We cannot and must not take safety for granted. Mine operators must prioritize worker safety, and this bill will compel them to so that every miner can return home safe after his or her shift.
ìThe Labor Department and MSHA have worked together with Congressman Miller and his staff on the important provisions of this bill. We fully endorse the efforts to strengthen mine safety and health laws because, ultimately, we all share the goal of safer workplaces for our nationís workers."