MSHA accountability problems continuing: OIG

DEFICIENCIES still exist in the US Mine Safety and Health Administration’s accountability processes, the Office of Inspector General has found.
MSHA accountability problems continuing: OIG MSHA accountability problems continuing: OIG MSHA accountability problems continuing: OIG MSHA accountability problems continuing: OIG MSHA accountability problems continuing: OIG

John Kline

Donna Schmidt

The OIG has conducted a lengthy audit of MSHA. While it found the agency had faced challenges and made improvements, there was still more to be done.

The federal inspector’s most recent audit began in June 2011 at the recommendation of US House Committee on Education and the workforce chairman John Kline.

The latest report, released this week, was aimed at gauging the progress MSHA had made at implementing corrective actions found on its first OIG evaluation in 2007.

“Although overall there were significant improvements in this program, we found that one of the 14 recommendations we made in our 2007 audit report was not fully implemented,” the office said.

That deficiency: failing to fully utilize a corrective action tracking system.

“We also found that multiple deficiencies MSHA identified in its own accountability reviews recurred,” the OIG said.

“These deficiencies were related to inspections, supervisory reviews, issuance of citations, and documentation. Moreover, we found that MSHA did not implement or could not demonstrate it implemented 10 per cent of corrective actions required by the accountability reviews in our sample.”

In its recommendations, the inspector general told assistant secretary for mine safety and health Joe Main to direct the agency to develop a robust oversight function for risk-based contingency planning; to provide management oversight of enforcement activities to ensure compliance with MSHA policies and procedures; to develop and implement comprehensive root cause analysis training programs; and require to all district managers and supervisors to document the corrective action implementations.

“The assistant secretary agreed with our recommendations and committed to developing and

implementing corrective actions,” the OIG report said.

Kline responded to the findings and recommendations of the OIG by urging MSHA to strengthen its accountability practices.

“In 2007, the Inspector General offered some tough criticism and important advice about how to strengthen MSHA’s accountability program,” he said.

“The agency should be commended for addressing many of the concerns raised in the … earlier audit, but today’s report reveals problems continue to plague oversight of the agency’s enforcement activities.”

The federal mining oversight group must look within to establish processes to identify its own enforcement weaknesses and ensure those issues are effectively addressed.

“Without a strong accountability program, MSHA cannot provide miners the level of safety enforcement they deserve,” Kline said.

“While mine operators maintain primary responsibility for ensuring a safe workplace, MSHA has an obligation to enforce the law. Any attempt to downplay the critical role of effective enforcement policies in mine safety is a disservice to miners and their families.

“As the committee continues to conduct oversight of this important agency, I urge assistant secretary Main to adopt the Inspector General’s recommendations.”

The last report before the June 2011 audit commenced was handed to Kline and MSHA in March 2010. That report revealed serious deficiencies in the agency’s enforcement of health and safety standards.

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