April 1, 2012
MSHA announces the third phase of its ‘Rules to Live By’ initiative.
On Jan. 31, 2012, Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main announced the launch of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) third phase of its “Rules to Live By” initiatives, entitled “Rules to Live By III: Preventing Common Mining Deaths” (RTLB III). This latest phase focuses on 14 safety standards, including six metal/non-metal standards. The first Rules to Live By initiative was introduced in January 2010, and it focused on 24 frequently cited standards, including 13 metal/non-metal standards that MSHA believed caused or contributed to fatal accidents in nine accident categories. The second Rules to Live By initiative was introduced in November 2010, and it focused on nine coal standards which were cited during major disasters over the previous 10 years, contributing to five or more fatalities.
Beginning this month, MSHA will increase scrutiny for violations of these standards and instruct inspectors to carefully evaluate gravity and negligence when citing violations of standards that may cause or contribute to mining fatalities. It is also expected that violations of the targeted standards will be more likely to result in special assessments. As a result, mine operators should take extra notice of these standards.
Special assessments based on alleged violations of the Rules to Live By Parts I and II have been costly to mine operators. For example, a mine operator was issued a § 104(a), moderate negligence, Significant & Substantial (S&S) citation under an original Rules To Live By standard. This citations’ regular assessment under the point formula at 30 CFR Part 100 would have been $3,143, but it was specially assessed at $52,500, since the alleged violation involved a Rules to Live By standard. Similarly, a § 104(a), high negligence, S&S citation that would have been regularly assessed at $7,176 was specially assessed for $69,200. Specially assessed fines similar to these examples may become even more common under RTLB III, given that one of the metal/non-metal priority standards, 30 C.F.R. § 56.14100(b), was the top cited standard at metal/non-metal surface facilities in 2011.
The six priority standards of RTLB III for metal/non-metal mines include the following:
Section 46.7(a) (New task training);
Section 56.3130 (Wall, bank, and slope stability);
Section 56.3200 (Correction of hazardous conditions);
Section 56.14100(b) (Safety defects; examination, correction, and records);
Section 56.15020 (Life jackets and belts); and
Section 57.14100(b) (Safety defects; examination, correction, and records).
MSHA has provided guidance on its implementation of RTLB III on its website at www.msha.gov/focuson/rulestoliveby.asp. This guidance includes a slide show of the training that MSHA inspectors will undergo to assist them with enforcement of the RTLB III initiative. Based upon this guidance, it appears that MSHA will be focusing on discussions with miners on the mine site regarding their task training, as well as procedures for on-shift and pre-operational examinations. It is also likely that MSHA inspectors will be inquiring as to any written task training documents or other training aids that may be used on the mine site to task train miners.
Dana M. Svendsen is a member of Jackson Kelly PLLC’s Denver office, practicing in the Occupational Safety and Health Practice Group. She can be reached at 303-390-0011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.