AggBeat (Digital Exclusives)
MSHA reminds miners they can request inspections for hazardous conditions
By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released two new program information bulletins pertaining to the rights of miners who make hazardous condition complaints and request inspections, as well as miners’ protections against discrimination.
MSHA decided to distribute these guidelines based on testimony delivered in May during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in Beckley, W.Va., as well as testimony delivered during recent Senate hearings. Statements from family members of miners who died in the April 5, 2010, explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine indicated that workers who had expressed concerns over safety conditions existing prior to the deadly blast feared retaliation by mine management.
Section 103(g)(1) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 provides that a miner or miners’ representative has the right to obtain an immediate MSHA inspection if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an imminent danger, a violation of the Mine Act, or a violation of a mandatory safety or health standard exists. The agency will conduct a special inspection to determine if a violation or danger exists, issue a citation or order as appropriate, and take all reasonable steps to maintain and assure the confidentiality of the complainant.
MSHA maintains an anonymous hotline to report hazardous conditions. The phone number is 800-746-1553. Persons may also report hazardous conditions at the nearest MSHA district office or online at www.msha.gov, and MSHA will promptly launch an investigation.
“Miners have a right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a prepared statement. “The more people participate actively in mine safety, the better.”
Section 105(c) of the Mine Act prohibits individuals from discriminating against miners; applicants for employment and representatives of miners for exercising statutory rights, especially concerning safety or health activities such as identifying hazards; requesting MSHA inspections; or refusing to engage in unsafe work.
“MSHA will vigorously investigate all discrimination complaints by miners,” said Main. “We will not hesitate to seek more substantial civil penalties against mine operators who repeatedly discriminate against miners as a deterrent to future such illegal acts.”
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