MSHA issues 255 citations during special impact inspections
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced on May 31 that federal inspectors issued 255 citations and orders during special impact inspections conducted at eight coal mines and seven metal/non-metal mines in April. The coal mines were issued 125 citations and 36 orders, while the metal/non-metal operations were issued 93 citations and one order.
These inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following an explosion at the 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.
“MSHA inspectors continue to find and cite serious violations at mines we have targeted during previous impact inspections,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a written statement. “We will continue to level this enforcement tool until repeat offenders demonstrate they take their responsibilities for the safety and health of miners seriously.”
In one of the more extreme examples to date, federal inspectors issued 20 withdrawal orders and five citations during an April 2011 impact inspection at Randolph Mine in Boone County, W.Va., owned by Massey Energy and operated by Inman Energy. Eleven of the orders were for serious violations of a ventilation plan that presented a potential risk of fire, explosion, and black lung disease. MSHA released the details of that inspection in a May 3 press release.
As one example from the impact inspections, on April 14, an inspection team arrived at Wilcoal Mining Inc.’s Tri-State One Mine in Claiborne County, Tenn. The inspectors captured and monitored the mine phone to prevent advance notification of their arrival. As a result of this inspection, the mine operator was issued 15 104(a) citations and 5 104(d)(2) orders.
Two orders and two citations were issued for accumulations of combustible materials on two underground belts. These accumulations extended about 650 feet and ranged in depths of 4 inches to 16 inches. Although the accumulations were wet at the time, under normal mining conditions they will dry out and present fire and explosion hazards.
Additional citations were issued for conditions that could cause serious injuries and possible death. Inspectors found violations of inadequate rib and roof support, improperly working parking brakes and emergency stop switches, and noncompliance with the approved ventilation plan. The continuous mining machine was observed mining with the line curtain 24 feet from the scrubber discharge. The plan limits this distance to a maximum of 15 feet. Noncompliance with the approved ventilation plan and the presence of this condition underground at the mine expose miners to respirable coal mine dust, making them vulnerable to black lung disease and methane hazards that could contribute to mine explosions.
The impact inspection was Tri-State One’s fifth since April 2010. Although the mine received a potential pattern of violations notice during the last screening, it reduced its rate of significant and substantial violations during the evaluation period and was not placed on POV status.