FBI puts mine safety investigators under microscope

ACCIDENT and special investigators from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration are polishing their skills during a pilot training program with the FBI’s Evidence Response Team Unit.

Donna Schmidt

The two-week training course began September 24 at MSHA’s National Mining Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, West Virginia, and will run until Friday.

The 18 investigators are being instructed on securing accident scenes, photographing and sketching, collecting and packaging evidence, conducting interviews, dealing with false or altered records, and the process for releasing a scene.

“This training will help improve MSHA investigators’ skills and knowledge to conduct investigations under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 – including willful violations of the Mine Act – as well as accident investigations,” assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.

“In the event an accident investigation identifies possible criminal activities, MSHA’s investigators will be better prepared to interact with the Department of Justice.”

FBI Laboratory director D. Christian Hassell said the agency’s accident investigation team had a difficult job.

“Its commitment to ensuring the integrity of the evidence, collected during the course of their investigations, is commendable,” he said.

MSHA’s minimum requirements for special investigators include being an authorized representative of the secretary of labor with authority to conduct inspections, or having authorization for right-of-entry to mining operations.

Additionally, those individuals must complete five weeks of formal classroom training, with credentials obtainable through an on-the-job training program.

To be a lead accident investigator, individuals must be an authorized representative and must also complete 21 weeks of classroom training at the MSHA academy and undergo extensive field training and evaluation.