MSHA announces major reorganization to centralize oversight efforts

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration is reorganizing its offices to centralize its internal oversight and special enforcement efforts and will hire an official to head a branch managing investigations, special enforcement and accountability within the agency.
MSHA announces major reorganization to centralize oversight efforts MSHA announces major reorganization to centralize oversight efforts MSHA announces major reorganization to centralize oversight efforts MSHA announces major reorganization to centralize oversight efforts MSHA announces major reorganization to centralize oversight efforts

MSHA assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main.

Donna Schmidt

The Office of Assessments, Accountability, Special Enforcement and Investigations will bring together the agency’s cross-cutting, compliance-related activities and will incorporate the management, support and coordination of both routine and special assessments and also agency headquarters’ accountability functions and special enforcement strategies.

These include flagrant violation citations, as well as retaliation investigations and potential criminal violations, impact inspections, the use of injunctive authority and MSHA’s pattern of violations (POV) program.

“Under this reorganization, MSHA will incorporate current headquarters’ accountability functions as carried out by the office of accountability within the OAASEI,” MSHA said.

The office of accountability was first established after the accidents at the Sago, Aracoma and Darby mines resulted in internal agency reviews that were critical of its pre-accident enforcement activities.

Those reviews also questioned if policies were being implemented properly and in an effective manner.

“By establishing headquarters’ accountability functions within the OAASEI, MSHA will enhance the management, administrative and analytical support for this program while retaining its independence from the mine inspection program areas,” officials said.

OAASEI will be made up of two branches, special enforcement and accountability and civil penalties and assessment.

Overseeing investigations, special enforcement and accountability will be a newly appointed deputy director.

MSHA did not disclose any decisions yet made with regards to the role.

“[ISEA] includes the existing technical compliance and investigations office [and] will provide centralized oversight of special investigations and special enforcement activities such as the POV and impact inspection programs; manage the evaluation and development of strategies to improve the use of other enforcement tools, such as flagrant violations and special assessments; and work closely with the OAASEI director in conducting quantitative analyses to monitor mine operators' performance and continuing to develop and refine special enforcement strategies that improve the health and safety of miners who are most at risk,” MSHA officials outlined.

A special enforcement and analysis branch within the OAASEI will also be formed to provide analytical and programmatic support, as well as to steer special enforcement programs including the POV and impact inspections initiative.

“MSHA conducts regular mandated inspections and enforcement actions to support compliance in US mines,” assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.

“However, some mines require targeted, enhanced enforcement methods.

“The formation of OAASEI will enable MSHA to better manage and coordinate its use of special enforcement tools against the most serious violators of the Mine Act.

“Furthermore, the new organization will strengthen accountability and demonstrate that MSHA is committed to ensuring that miners know their rights under the Mine Act and is protecting those who exercise their rights from retaliation or discrimination.”

The reorganization is being funded by the realignment of a newly enacted appropriations bill for the 2012 fiscal year.

Some personnel will be moved from other MSHA budget activities under this project and specially trained investigators for potential criminal and whistle-blower issues will also be added.

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