December 23, 2010
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) federal inspectors issued 250 citations, orders and safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 12 coal and 10 metal/non-metal mine operations in November, the government agency announced on Dec. 21.
These inspections, which began in force during April following the explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their 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.
During November’s impact inspections, metal/non-metal mines were issued 113 citations and 11 orders. Since April, MSHA has conducted impact inspections at 182 coal and metal/non-metal mines.
During an inspection conducted during the week of Nov. 15 at Lehigh Permanente Cement Co. Mine in Santa Clara County, Calif., MSHA issued 30 citations and six orders to the company. Five 104(d) orders were issued, including a violation for a supervisor’s failure to de-energize electrically powered equipment prior to removing a guard. Another 104(d) order was issued for unsafe access where inadequately secured steel plates could have fallen on miners or delivery drivers accessing a storage area; this hazard had been reported to mine management two weeks earlier. A 104(b) order was issued for failure-to-abate in a timely manner a fall protection violation, in which miners working at the top of a mill were exposed to an approximately 36-foot drop to the concrete below. Sixty percent of the citations and orders were significant and substantial violations. As of Dec. 21, 2010, MSHA inspectors had issued 185 citations and 21 orders.
“MSHA’s impact inspection program is helping to reduce the number of mines that consider egregious violation records a cost of doing business,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a written statement. “We will continue using this important enforcement tool to protect the nation’s miners.”