Department of Labor announces findings of impact inspections at 14 US mines; identifies 246 violations of safety, health standards
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 14 mines in 10 states in August, issuing 246 violations.
Begun after an explosion killed 29 miners in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010, monthly impact inspections are conducted at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and other compliance concerns.
Among the 246 violations MSHA identified in August, 94 were evaluated as significant and substantial, or S&S, violations and 17 were found to have an unwarrantable failure finding. An S&S violation is one reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.
MSHA completed monthly impact inspections at mines in Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming in August.
So far this year, the agency’s impact inspections have identified 1,969 violations, including 587 S&S and 40 unwarrantable failure findings.
“August impact inspections resulted in a troubling number of unwarrantable failure findings at multiple mines, representing serious safety and health hazards that operators knew put miners at risk and should have corrected,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “Impact inspections remain an important tool to hold operators accountable and eliminate hazards such as combustible materials near belts, hazards that history shows can unfortunately cause mine fires and lost lives.”
One of the mines included in the August impact inspections was the Hopedale Mine in Hopedale, Ohio. Operated by Leesville Land LLC, the mine was selected given its previous enforcement history. The inspection identified 16 violations, including 10 S&S and nine unwarrantable failure findings. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found the following conditions existed at the mine:
- Failure to perform adequate workplace examinations. Adequate workplace examinations are essential to ensure compliance with health and safety standards, and must include the identification, correction and documentation of hazardous conditions. Proper examinations reduce the risks of fatal mine accidents and disabling injuries to miners.
- Poor belt and walkway maintenance, including accumulations of loose coal and float coal dust. MSHA continues to remind operators of the importance of controlling the accumulation of float coal dust, loose coal and other combustible material to prevent fires and explosions. MSHA has cited the mine’s operator during previous inspections for not maintaining safe walkways.
- Nine unwarrantable violations related to accumulations of loose coal and coal dust along belts with bottom rollers turning in coal, which could cause a spark and cause an explosion. Additional unwarrantable violations include not maintaining a clear travel way along belts, not repairing or replacing damaged belt conveyor components, not identifying hazards and for allowing hazardous conditions to exist along belts for several shifts without taking any corrective actions. Uncorrected hazards needlessly expose miners to potential injuries and illnesses.