MSHA keeps making an impact with inspection push

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration has released the results of its impact inspection push for August, with overall citations dropping month-on-month but coal violations shooting upward along with an increase in surprise coal complex inspections.
MSHA keeps making an impact with inspection push MSHA keeps making an impact with inspection push MSHA keeps making an impact with inspection push MSHA keeps making an impact with inspection push MSHA keeps making an impact with inspection push

MSHA assistant secretary Joe Main.

Donna Schmidt

In a report released this week, federal officials said inspectors issued 356 citations, orders and safeguards to 16 coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines in August. Of those, 272 citations, 37 orders and two safeguards were given to coal operators and metal/nonmetal operators were issued 45 citations.

In July, the agency issued 375 citations and orders to 10 coal mines and five metal/nonmetal operations; 232 citations and 24 ordered were issued to coal mines, and the metal/nonmetal sector received 108 citations and 11 orders.

MSHA spotlighted one of its impact inspections, which took place August 25 at Hidden Splendor Resources’ Horizon mine in Helper, Utah. The operation received 33 violations, including eight orders, for violations including inoperable firefighting equipment.

The operator was also cited for not maintaining ventilation devices, high coal dust accumulations and hazardous conditions on the underground conveyor belts.

Horizon’s August 25 review was its fifth impact inspection since the start of the program in 2010. Management was notified in March 2009 of a potential pattern of violations.

MSHA also conducted a surprise inspection August 19 at the Upper Cedar Grove No. 4 in Logan County, West Virginia, and issued seven citations and eight orders – nine of which were designated as significant and substantial (S&S).

Six unwarrantable failure closure orders and one unwarrantable failure citation issued to the mine involved violations related to ventilation, the mine’s emergency response plan, and unsafe conditions or practices stemming from a lack of proper and complete examinations.

Upper Cedar Grove No. 4 also did not notify MSHA of a change in its status from nonproducing to producing within the mandated three working days.

“As we continue to conduct impact inspections at mines with compliance problems or other health or safety issues, there are indications that the industry is getting the message and improving health and safety practices,” assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.

“But for mine operators not getting the message, MSHA will use impact inspections and other enforcement tools at our disposal to protect the health and safety of their miners.”

The agency’s special impact inspections began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 workers were killed.

The push involved mines that merit increased attention and enforcement by the agency due to a poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, 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 hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; 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.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 327 impact inspections, which have resulted in 5,843 citations, 555 orders and 21 safeguards.

Please click on the PDF document to the right of the screen under related links and downloads to view the MSHA’s table for August.

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