Through the month of September, federal inspectors issued 374 citations, orders and safeguards during its push at 18 coal mines and two metal/nonmetal operations. Coal mines were issued 292 citations, 28 orders and one safeguard while the metal/nonmetal mines received 52 citations and one order.
In August, federal officials issued 356 citations, orders and safeguards to 16 coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines. Of those, 272 citations, 37 orders and two safeguards were given to coal operators and metal/nonmetal operators were issued 45 citations.
MSHA spotlighted one of its impact inspections, which took place during the second shift September 23 at D & C Mining’s underground operation in Harlan County, Kentucky.
Inspectors wrote seven 104(d)(2) withdrawal orders, one 107(a) imminent danger order and 11 104(a) citations, of which 16 were designated significant and substantial, as a result of their visit.
“The imminent danger order was issued when the inspection team found a cigarette lighter near the continuous mining machine, marking the second time since February that smoking articles were found underground at this mine,” officials said.
“This condition provided an ignition source in the presence of combustible materials, loose coal and coal dust accumulations in an area with inadequate rock dust to prevent an explosion.”
The impact inspection was the mine’s sixth since April 2010.
MSHA also wrote two of the withdrawal orders for inadequate roof and rib supports at the face area of the mine, a high traffic area for workers throughout the day at any operation. Some of the violations included loose, unsupported drawrock, wide roof and rib bolt spacing, inadequate rock dusting, use of a non-permissible cap lamp, combustible material accumulations, an inadequate smoke search program, inadequate pre-shift examinations, improperly working parking brakes on mobile equipment, nonworking self-contained self-rescuer units, a poorly maintained roof drill dust collection system and inadequate illumination on the mine surface areas.
“The closure order is still one of the most effective tools inspectors have to bring about compliance, even during impact inspections,” assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.
“We will not hesitate to use this and other enforcement tools to protect the nation’s 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 347 impact inspections, which have resulted in 6187 citations, 584 orders and 22 safeguards.