ARLINGTON, Va. — In a speech before attendees of the West Virginia Coal Association's 41st Annual Mining Symposium in Charleston, W.Va., today, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main discussed actions taken by the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the mining community over the past year to improve mine safety and health.
In his remarks, Main stated that mine safety has been on a steady path of improvement since the agency began implementing reforms, characterized by a reduction in the number of chronic violators and better compliance with mine safety and health standards. Most importantly, during this period, the industry achieved the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of mining in 2011 and again in 2012, a trend that continued through FY 2013.
"MSHA has put into place a number of initiatives that we believe have improved mine safety and health and mine emergency response," said Main. Notably, the agency spearheaded the creation of a national organization to provide guidance on mine rescue; continued actions to reduce black lung and other occupational diseases; and filed the most discrimination cases ever filed in a single year on behalf of miners who have been retaliated against by their employers for making hazardous condition complaints.
In addition, in 2013, the agency completed all of its corrective actions in response to the 100 recommendations made by the internal review of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. "This Upper Big Branch review was one of the most comprehensive internal reviews conducted in MSHA history," Main said, "and the corrective actions MSHA took have resulted in the most extensive changes at MSHA in decades, improving mine safety and health for the nation's miners and changing how we do business at the agency." To address its recommendations, MSHA overhauled its mine inspection handbooks, implemented new inspection procedures on rock dusting of mines to prevent coal dust explosions, and implemented a centralized directive system for the development and to ensure consistency of the agency's policies.
Main highlighted these and other actions, noting that MSHA and the mining community still have work to do. However, as he stated: "Certainly, the progress we have made in mine safety in recent years lets us know that greater improvements are achievable. We owe the nation's miners that much."
A copy of Assistant Secretary Main's remarks is available at http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/speeches/20140130_Main.htm.