MSHA says inspections have made mines safer

Kerry Clines

March 4, 2013

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced that federal inspectors issued 245 citations and 13 orders during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and six metal/non-metal mines in January 2013.

The monthly inspections involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. These matters include high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries, or illnesses; fatalities; adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions, and inadequate ventilation; and respirable dust.

“We believe that the impact inspection initiative has made mines safer,” said Joseph A Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “According to a recent evaluation of mines targeted in this special enforcement program, there have clearly been improvements.”

From April 2010 through December 2012, total violations (per 100 on-site inspection hours) decreased 15 percent in coal mines and 13 percent in metal/non-metal mines; significant and substantial violations decreased 19 percent in coal mines and 33 percent in metal/non-metal mines; unwarrantable failure violations decreased 43 percent in coal mines and 60 percent in metal/non-metal mines; and operator-reported lost-time injuries per 200,000 hours worked decreased 8 percent in coal mines and 14 percent in metal/non-metal mines.

“However, as we have also said, some mines still don’t get it, and we will not hesitate to use our enforcement tools when we identify those mines,” said Main.

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