The agency said that Hepburnia Coal in central Pennsylvania will train its workers on miners’ rights under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and pay a fine of $US3750 following an April 2011 complaint of discrimination by David Sturgeon Sr.
The mine owner, who controls a surface operation, issued a 30-day suspension to Sturgeon because he was suspected of filing complaints with federal officials regarding safety issues at the Shane mine; the mine was subsequently cited for numerous violations.
Sturgeon returned to work the following day and did not suffer monetary damages, but he alleged to regulators that the disciplinary action had a “chilling effect” on other miners and would keep them from reporting safety complaints in the future.
MSHA sought in a complaint filed with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to show that Hepburnia unlawfully discriminated against its employee under the outlines of Section 105(c) of the Mine Act, which protects miners as well as their representatives and applicants from retaliation for engaging in safety and/or health-related activities including identifying hazards, requesting federal inspections or refusing to perform an unsafe act.
Hepburnia has agreed to offer the MSHA-developed training to all employees at all locations, and this training will include the right to report safety hazards to the operator or MSHA.
“Every miner has the right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination or retaliation,” assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.
“Incorporating training requirements on the rights of miners into discrimination settlements is a positive and innovative step toward establishing a health and safety culture in the mining industry in which miners have a voice in their own health and safety.”
MSHA has made available a single-source page on the rights and responsibilities of all miners at http://www.msha.gov/S&HINFO/minersrights/minersrights.asp.