Rock and roll
By R. Brian Hendrix
Know when to mark a machine as “removed from service” and when to label it as “available for use.”
Has a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspector ever inspected a piece of mobile equipment, despite the fact that it is not running or in operation and has not had a pre-shift inspection? Has an inspector ever asked you to operate a piece of equipment or machinery just so he or she can inspect it? Did the inspector issue a citation for an alleged violation discovered during the inspection of that equipment or machinery after you started it up? If you answered any or all of these questions with a “yes,” you are not alone. Indeed, it seems as though the number of mine operators who are answering “yes” to these questions is growing by the day. Here’s why, along with a few suggestions aimed at reducing your liability in these kinds of situations.
MSHA believes that if equipment or machinery is available for use, it has the authority to cite any defect or other violation it finds. Additionally, MSHA may take the position that a piece of equipment that is tagged out, but not otherwise disabled, is “available for use” [Citation and Order Writing Handbook for Coal Mines and Metal Non-metal Mines, PH08-I-1 (March 2008)]. Here’s an example from the Handbook that illustrates MSHA’s point:
Scenario: A loader was observed parked and not operating at the time of inspection. It did not have the required seat belts installed. The inspector determined that the machine was used as a spare and was not out of service. The inspector did not issue a citation for the lack of seat belts. The rationale used by the inspector was that the loader was not operating at the time he or she observed the violation.
This evaluation is not correct — a violation was observed on mobile equipment that could be started and used any time subjecting miners to possible injury death. A citation shall be issued for all violations found on equipment or machinery not taken out of service and tagged prior to being inspected by MSHA.
Basically, MSHA will inspect equipment or machinery if it could be used or placed into service, regardless of whether the equipment or machinery is, in fact, in use, and regardless of how likely it is to be used.
What does it take to remove equipment or machinery from service? MSHA instructs its inspectors to issue a citation for “all violations found on equipment or machinery not taken out of service and tagged prior to being inspected by MSHA.” However, it also tells its inspectors that unless the equipment or machinery in question is physically disabled, MSHA may treat it as “available for use.” According to MSHA: ‘removed from service’ does not mean that the mine operator stopped using and parked a piece of equipment (e.g., front-end loader, truck) or a mining unit (e.g., portable crusher, screening unit) when it could or can be restarted and easily placed back into service.
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