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Inspector General Memo Points To Gaps In Pattern Of Violations


The Mine Safety and Health Administration responded to last week’s alert memorandum issued by the department’s Office of Inspector General, which highlights flaws in MSHA’s past implementation of its Pattern of Violations authority, including setting limits on the number of mines the agency targeted for potential POV because of resource limitations

The Mine Safety and Health Administration responded to last weekís alert memorandum issued by the departmentís Office of Inspector General, which highlights flaws in MSHAís past implementation of its Pattern of Violations authority, including setting limits on the number of mines the agency targeted for potential POV because of resource limitations. The Pattern of Violations process looks at mines with an inspection history of recurrent significant and substantial violations of mandatory safety or health standards.

ìUpon receiving the alert memorandum from the inspector general, I ordered inspectors to make an additional visit to every one of the coal-producing mines on the list that the IG said were not put on potential POV status in 2009 because of resource issues,î said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. ìPrior to this action, these mines had been subjected to numerous inspections and enforcement activity.î

The Pattern of Violations screening process that the Inspector General is investigating is no longer in use. ìThe career leadership at MSHA was following the existing policies in place prior to my arrival at MSHA, and I do not agree with these policies,î said Main. ìGoing forward, decisions about potential POV and POV enforcement actions will be based solely on what is best for the safety and health of the miners, within legal and regulatory constraints.î

MSHA intends to rewrite the existing policies governing POV prior to the next round of POV decisions later this year. ìThis will ensure that the first POV determinations under my watch will be handled differently,î said Main.

Main said he shares the Inspector Generalís concern that district managers were asked to limit the number of mines to be placed into potential POV status, especially in MSHAís District 4 office in southern West Virginia, which has the highest concentration of coal mines in the country.

ìWhile I understand that concern, a better response would have been to split District 4, so that all of the mines that need attention can receive attention. We have advocated for exactly that and are exploring ways to accomplish it. This is a better approach to handle the workload issues in District 4,î Main said.