March 31, 2011
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has opened a comment period for its revised pattern of violations (POV).
The most significant change in proposed revisions is issued — versus adjudicated — citations to serve as the basis for MSHA’s future selection of operators deserving of POV status. Currently, a mine operator that has a potential pattern of recurrent substantial and significant (S&S) violations at a mine — infringements that could reasonably be expected to lead to a serious injury or illness — receives written notification from MSHA. This gives an operator the opportunity to review and comment on the documents upon which the potential pattern of violations is based and to then develop a corrective action program to reduce S&S violations.
MSHA says it closely monitors the affected mine’s compliance. If the operator significantly reduces its S&S violation rate, it can avoid being issued a Notice of a Pattern of Violations in accordance to Section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. If the improvement falls short of prescribed goals, MSHA will issue the notice. For each S&S violation subsequently found, MSHA will issue an order withdrawing miners from the affected area until the cited condition has been corrected. An operator can be removed from a pattern of violations when an inspection of the entire mine is completed and no S&S violations are found or no withdrawal order is issued by MSHA.
Potential concerns with the proposed revisions include an operator’s ability to meet an undefined regulatory target, to track a site’s unofficial POV status, and to assume regulatory culpability for citations prior to the completion of due process.