MSHA rewrites the rules to save lives

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration is increasing awareness of the industry’s most prevalent violations of safety and health standards in its new Rules to Live By initiative.
MSHA rewrites the rules to save lives MSHA rewrites the rules to save lives MSHA rewrites the rules to save lives MSHA rewrites the rules to save lives MSHA rewrites the rules to save lives

The 2009 National Coal Mine Rescue Competition, courtesy MSHA.

Donna Schmidt

The outreach and enforcement program set to roll out February 11 was developed to strengthen efforts to prevent mining fatalities by identifying those causes most frequently seen in the agency’s investigations.

In addition to focused enforcement by its inspectors, MSHA will conduct outreach efforts beginning with two public events in Austin, Texas, on February 11 and Charleston, West Virginia, on February 12.

"While the mining community marked a record-low number of mining deaths last year and has seen a significant decline in fatal mining accidents during the past 10 years, too many miners still lose their lives in preventable accidents," secretary of labor Hilda Solis said.

"MSHA and its stakeholders must remain committed to working together toward the ultimate goal of zero mining fatalities."

In developing the initiative, federal officials analyzed a total of 589 mining fatalities that occurred between 2000 and 2008 to determine the most common conditions and practices in use at the time of the incidents as well as the most prevalent root causes and safety hazard violations.

It found 11 coal and 13 metal/nonmetal issues were frequently cited in accident investigations and classified them in nine categories: falls from elevation, falls of roof and rib, operating mobile equipment (surface and underground), maintenance, lock and tag out, blocking against motion, and struck by mobile equipment (surface and underground).

Over that period, West Virginia marked the highest number of coal mine fatalities with 94. Kentucky had the second-highest fatalities with 78.

In metal/nonmetal, Nevada recorded 26 fatalities between 2000 and 2008, while 21 occurred in Texas.

MSHA said the initiative would kick off in two phases – industry outreach and focused inspections. The first will include distribution of information on common fatal accident causes to mine operators, labor organizations, state training grantees and other stakeholders.

“The MSHA web site will provide compliance assistance materials such as engineering suggestions, packages of safety target materials and other information to ensure that mine operators and miners have the necessary resources to address and eliminate workplace hazards,” the agency said.

In mid-March, MSHA will commence focused inspections at US mines as it dedicates special attention to the 24 standards violations. Federal inspectors will be reminded to evaluate the gravity and negligence levels carefully and cite violations consistent with the seriousness of the infraction.

All inspectors will receive online training on inspector laptop applications specific to this initiative, MSHA noted, as well as enforcement summaries and tip sheets.

"With the full support of the mining industry, Rules to Live By should make great strides in preventing fatal accidents," assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.