AggBeat: The heat is on MSHA
An audit by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General reveals that 56 percent of ‘experienced’ journeymen MSHA inspectors aren’t trained properly.
By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has received harsh criticism from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) after the agency conducted a performance audit of MSHA’s Training Program for both entry-level and journeyman mine inspectors and found that 56 percent of journeyman inspectors were not properly trained.
The report, released the week of March 29, shows that after a 26-percent increase in the number of inspectors hired by the agency, more than a quarter of inspectors were not receiving the training needed to properly enforce safety and health standards.
The audit reveals that MSHA even authorized one person to perform inspection duties without having been required to complete the minimum, entry-level training modules. MSHA had not defined circumstances that permitted a waiver of the training requirements nor had it documented the rationale for waiving the training requirement in this instance, according to the Office of the Inspector General.
What’s more, the MSHA Academy — where inspectors are supposed to receive their training — lacked timely and adequate support documentation for some training, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) said in its Washington Watch e-newsletter.
MSHA’s system for recording training activity lacked sufficient controls to ensure that adequate documentation was maintained to support training completion, according to the audit. Since completion of a minimum level of training is part of MSHA’s requirement to become an inspector, incomplete training records create a risk that an individual could be designated as an inspector without having completed sufficient training.
For the record
At the end of fiscal year (FY) 2008, MSHA employed 1,037 inspectors consisting of 358 entry-level 2 inspectors (282 in coal and 76 in metal/non-metal) and 679 journeymen.
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) requires the Secretary of Labor to develop and maintain adequate programs for the training and continuing education of persons, particularly inspectors, to carry out its provisions.
MSHA divides mine enforcement into two program offices — Coal Mine Safety and Health (Coal) or Metal and Non-metal Mine Safety and Health (Metal/Non-metal). Inspectors receive training based on the specific technical needs associated with examining mines within their assigned program area. Training for entry-level coal and metal/non-metal inspectors consists of six modules of classroom instruction totaling 21 and 23 weeks, respectively, at MSHA’s National Mine Health and Safety Academy (Academy).
Intermingled with the classroom sessions, entry-level inspectors must complete specific online training components and on-the-job (OJT) sessions while in the field, according to the Office of the Inspector General. The training regimen is typically completed during a 12- to 16-month period. Subsequent to this initial training, MSHA policy requires that journeyman inspectors, in both coal and metal/nonmetal, receive one week of specified retraining each year, or two weeks every other year.
To determine whether the training was effective and sufficient, the Office of the Inspector General says it conducted an audit of MSHA‘s Inspector Training Program to answer the question: Do MSHA inspectors receive training to effectively execute their regulatory responsibilities?
An audit for answers
The audit examined whether (a) entry-level inspectors in FYs 2007 and 2008 completed MSHA’s designated training curriculum and (b) journeymen inspectors completed MSHA’s designated retraining course(s) within the most recent two-year training cycle (FYs 2006-2007), according to the Office of the Inspector General.
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