Friday, January 18, 2013

New mine-safety rules tougher on repeat violators

In an effort to prevent fatal coal mining accidents and further protect miners' health and safety, the U.S. Department of Labor has finalized new rules that would make it easier to enforce strict penalties against coal operators whose mines repeatedly violate safety and health standards. The rules are aimed at reforming the "pattern of violations" program at the Mine Safety and Health Administration that targeted repeat offenders but allowed them to delay sanctions by appealing safety citations and be warned of special inspections, Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports. (Photo by Stephen Wilkes, GalleryStock)

The rules would stop the appeals and eliminate MSHA warning letters that have given companies more time to fix problems before inspectors visit mine sites. The final rules were announced on the same day as former mine superintendent Gary May was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy for his involvement in the explosion at the West Virginia mine that killed 29 miners. May's sentence was shortened as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, who are using his information to pursue prosecution of other high-level officials. The mine had avoided being classified as a "pattern violator" by appealing hundreds of safety citations, and because of MSHA inaction, Ward reports.

MSHA director Joe Main said the updated rules will "help prevent another tragedy" like that one, and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller said they are "an important step forward for improving safety in mines across West Virginia and the country." Ward reports that the National Mining Association criticized the final rule, saying it "would deprive mine operators of 'due process' by allowing MSHA citations that are under appeal to be counted as part of a violation pattern." (Read more)

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Workplace safety is a top priority. Unfortunately, most workers comp cases are legitimate and the situation could have been prevented by simply following the rules.