July 28, 2011
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) revealed on July 28 that federal inspectors issued 194 citations, orders, and safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 12 coal mines and two metal/non-metal mines during the month of June.
The coal mines were issued 154 citations, 12 orders, and three safeguards, while the metal/non-metal operations were issued 21 citations and four orders.
These inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that are said to 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.
“The impact inspection program has been an invaluable tool for identifying and addressing mines with serious compliance issues,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “While we are still finding mines with chronic problems, we are cautiously optimistic that the majority of operators are getting the message.”
As an example from last month’s impact inspections, MSHA conducted an impact inspection June 13-16 at Lehigh Southwest Cement Co.’s Lehigh Permanente Cement Co. This is a large cement facility located in Santa Clara County, Calif., employing about 106 miners. MSHA issued 21 citations and four unwarrantable failure orders during the inspection.
Inspectors noted a number of hazardous conditions, including tripping hazards in workplaces, passageways, storerooms and service rooms; safety defects not repaired in a timely manner, including not securing inspection doors on a kiln and sharp metal roofing hanging down in a travelway; miners working at elevation without proper scaffolding or working platforms; warning signs not readily visible to prohibit smoking and open flames where a fire or explosion hazard exist, and not securing guards while operating machinery.
This is the third impact inspection at this mine. Previous inspections were conducted in January and April 2011.
As a second example from last month, an inspection party arrived during the evening shift on June 3 at S&H Mining Inc.’s S and H Mining Inc. mine in Anderson County, Tenn. Inspectors immediately captured the mine phones on the surface to prevent advance notification. They issued 32 citations and orders, nearly half of them designated as significant and substantial. This is the second impact inspection conducted at this mine; the first was conducted in March 2011.
MSHA issued five 104(d)(1) closure orders and one 104(d)(1) citation for unwarrantable failure of the operator to conduct and record on-shift inspections of its belt lines. Timely on-shift examinations are necessary for the protection of miners from hazards and conditions that may develop during the shift and cause a mine fire.
One 104(d)(1) citation was issued for unwarrantable failure of the mine operator to install a male disconnecting device for a battery charger. One 104(d)(1) order was issued for unwarrantable failure of the mine operator to maintain the continuous mining machine in permissible condition. A 104(b) closure order was issued for failure to abate a previously cited violation for not being able to calibrate the methane monitor on the continuous mining machine. These conditions, if left unchecked and in concert with other conditions, could potentially cause a mine fire, explosion or electrocution of miners.
Inspectors issued other citations for inadequate roof support, electrical violations, and accumulation of combustible materials. Additional violations included failing to record that a search was conducted for smoking articles, a non-permissible roof-bolting machine, an inadequate fire suppression system on a surface belt drive, and an inoperative methane monitor on the continuous mining machine.
Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 292 impact inspections, which have resulted in 5,207 citations, 490 orders and 19 safeguards.
Click here for a spreadsheet of the results.