The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration said that the results are in from impact inspections it conducted from April through August at 111 coal and metal/nonmetal mines
The Department of Laborís Mine Safety and Health Administration announced that results are in from impact inspections it conducted from April through August at 111 coal and metal/nonmetal mines. MSHA designated these mines as having safety or health issues.
During that time, enforcement personnel issued 2,660 violations, 45% of which were classified as significant and substantial. These targeted inspections are part of an aggressive enforcement strategy launched in the wake of the Massey Energy mine explosion.
ìWe have learned a lot of hard lessons since the explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine more than five months ago,î said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. ìWhile a number of mine operators receiving impact inspections have taken positive steps to clean up their act, some have refused to take seriously their responsibility to protect their workers and change their ways. We canít be at every mine every day, but when we have reason to believe that a particular mine operator is putting minersí lives at risk, we will not sit back and wait for a disaster to happen.î
Throughout the course of the impact inspections, MSHA enforcement personnel employed a number of tactics at some mines to catch operators off guard, including late-afternoon or evening arrivals at the mine site, driving unmarked government vehicles, and seizing mine phones to thwart communication between mining personnel working on the surface and those working underground.
ìWe are striving to make our inspections more strategic, less predictable and more effective,î said Main.
Inspectors issued nearly 200 withdrawal orders at mines resulting from unwarrantable failures to comply with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, as well as eight Section 107(a) withdrawal orders due to imminent dangers.
MSHA initiated the impact inspections as it works to reform the broken pattern-of-violations program, which was intended to identify persistent safety-standard violators and subject those mines to an enhanced enforcement regime. MSHA formally announced its intention to rewrite the regulations that govern the program last spring. The current impact inspections are designed, in part, to catch problems that would otherwise be addressed by a functioning pattern-of-violations system.
Mine operations were selected for impact inspections based on specific criteria: poor compliance history, including high numbers of violations or closure orders; indications of operator tactics, such as advance notification of inspections that prevent inspectors from observing violations; frequent hazardous complaints or hotline calls; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; and adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation.
ìClearly, there are still too many mine operators who have not learned the lessons of Upper Big Branch and continue to put minersí lives at risk,î said Main. ìThey donít yet understand the value of safety in our nationís mines. Thatís got to change. Our mission is to protect miners, and protect them we must.î
A view-only chart showing which mines were inspected and fined during this sweep can be downloaded from MHSA's web site. The chart breaks down the mines by coal and metal and nonmetal.