Archives: Enforcement Update

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MSHA Issues Final Rule on Changes to the Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines

In a Final Rule published by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) on April 9, 2018, the agency amended certain changes made to the Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines final rule which was published on January 23, 2017.  The updated rules were set to go into effect on May 23, … Continue Reading

MSHA Rolls Out New System To Improve Mine Inspections

On February 22, 2018, the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) announced that it would be instituting a new Mobile Inspection Application System (Mobile IAS) to improve and further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of mine inspectors.  MSHA believes that the new system will enable inspectors to better carry out MSHA’s mission of promoting the … Continue Reading

MSHA to Strengthen Scofflaw Program in order to Enforce Collection of Fines

In an op-ed published on March 6th, 2018 in the Wheeling News Register, Assistant secretary for MSHA, David Zatezalo, announced plans to prioritize the collection of unpaid MSHA fines through the agency’s scofflaw program. The MSHA Scofflaw Program was initiated in 2007 to pursue payment of unpaid MSHA fines, and the program is not simply … Continue Reading

Use of Impact Inspections Decreases at Metal/Non-Metal Mines

The results from the September, 2017, MSHA impact inspections indicate a significant shift in enforcement practices and resources. The data shows that not only has the use of impact inspections in general receded over the past few months, but metal/non-metal mines in particular have received impact inspections at extremely low rates. In April, 2010, MSHA … Continue Reading

Mine Safety Agency Enhances Enforcement of ‘Rules to Live By’ to Prevent Mining Fatalities

The Mine Safety and Health Administration said it has begun “enhanced” enforcement of its “Rules to Live By” initiative, regulating standards commonly linked to mine deaths, as well as nine underground coal mine exam standards, targeting the greatest risks to miners in underground coal mines. The agency announced in 2016 that these heightened measures would … Continue Reading

MSHA Announces Results of Special Impact Inspections From December 2016

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has announced the results of its monthly special impact inspections from December 2016. During the month, MSHA conducted inspections at 10 coal mines and five metal and nonmetal mines during the month and issued 132 citations.  The inspections took place at mines in Alabama, Illinois, … Continue Reading

MSHA Issues New October Safety Alert

MSHA issued a new Seasonal Safety Alert this month.  The “Deadly October” Safety Alert  highlights the  high number of miner deaths that occurred during the month of October from 1998 through 2015 and the best practices that could prevent future deaths. MSHA found that 61 miners died at metal and nonmetal operations during “Deadly October” over … Continue Reading

MSHA Claims Respirable Coal Dust Samples Prove New Dust Rules Are Feasible

The Mine Safety and Health Administration recently announced results from coal mine dust sampling from April 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, claiming that 99 percent of the samples were in compliance with MSHA’s coal mine dust standards. The agency stated the results demonstrate the “significantly positive impact” of new coal dust sampling rules published … Continue Reading

Commission: MSHA may obtain contact information for every mine employee

According to a recent Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission decision, MSHA has the right to obtain a mine operator’s entire list of employees, including contact information, as long as its demand is a reasonable attempt to fulfill the agency’s statutory responsibilities. In Sec’y of Labor – MSHA v. Warrior Coal, LLC, Docket Nos. KENT 2011-1259-R, … Continue Reading

Is your “privileged” incident investigation file safe from disclosure?

Do you consider some or all of your accident investigation files to be privileged? Perhaps, your attorney reasonably explained that your files are protected from disclosure because you are performing the investigation under direction of counsel and in anticipation of the litigation that is sure to follow. You probably expect that your communications with counsel are … Continue Reading

MSHA’s lawyer agrees on need to justify special assessment

In recent arguments before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Commission took up the question of whether MSHA had justified specially assessing and significantly marking up penalties issued to mine operator American Coal Co. MSHA levied $43,200 in penalties through a special assessment instead of the $19,000 a regular assessment would require for … Continue Reading

Mine operator wins: Drill was “attended” even while drill operator was 20 feet away

If 30 CFR §56.7012 requires that “drills shall be attended at all times” while the drill is in operation, can the drill operator leave the inside of his cab? The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission recently affirmed a judge’s decision to vacate MSHA citations under this standard when the drill operator was as many as 18-20 … Continue Reading

February MSHA impact inspections yield mixed results

Last week, Donna Pryor summarized MSHA’s latest report on its impact inspections. In February, MSHA launched impact inspections at 15 mines, ten of which were coal mines. Nine mines walked away with fewer than 10 citations while the remainder received citations and orders in the double digits – as many as 32 in one location. Read the full report … Continue Reading

Is MSHA giving you enough time to abate citations?

Is your MSHA inspector issuing citations with short abatement times regardless of how long it will take to fix the cited conditions? According to a recent legal decision, MSHA inspectors cannot simply set an arbitrary time for requiring abatement of a citation. Instead, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission ruled last week, under the Mine Act, … Continue Reading

Illumination citation vacated when inspector observed only daytime operations

One mine operator in Tennessee successfully had a citation tossed out by a judge in January when the citation claimed insufficient illumination at a dock but MSHA’s inspector had only observed the unlit area during the daytime. The decision, Sec’y of Labor, MSHA v. Buzzi Unicem USA, FMSHRC No. SE 2015-206-M (Jan. 8, 2016), is a reminder … Continue Reading

MSHA warns of dangers and greater enforcement on lock-out/tag-out

MSHA put mine operators on notice in recent weeks that it is concerned about the hazards of improper lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) practices across the industry. In a recent letter to metal and nonmetal mine operators published by Rock Products magazine, MSHA M/NM Administrator Neil Merrifield promised that in coming months, “MSHA will stress the importance of … Continue Reading

MSHA and DOJ partner to prosecute more criminal charges in mining industry

While penalties for Mine Act violations have gone up repeatedly over the last two decades, criminal prosecutions have been fairly rare. That may change as a result of a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Labor. U.S. Attorneys and DOJ’s Criminal Division will work with MSHA, OSHA, and other … Continue Reading