News Release

Department of Labor completed impact inspections at 14 mines with histories of repeated safety, health violations in November 2023

Inspections resulted in 52 significant, substantial and 6 unwarrantable failure findings

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 November 2023, issuing 184 violations and one safeguard.

The agency began impact inspections after an April 2010 explosion in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.

To date, MSHA’s impact inspections in 2023 have identified 2,491 violations, including 706 significant and substantial and 52 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one that is 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.

The agency conducts impact inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and other compliance concerns. Of the 184 violations MSHA identified in November, 52 were evaluated as S&S and six had unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“The November 2023 impact inspection results show yet again the value of these inspections in identifying violations of mandatory safety and health standards,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “But it is troubling that the findings of November’s impact inspections closely mirror those of others in 2023.”

“The Mine Act makes clear that the ultimate responsibility for the safety and health of miners lies with mine operators. MSHA will continue to publish the results of impact inspections and urges mine operators to take proactive steps to make certain they are protecting miners from injuries or fatalities. We are all troubled by the mining industry’s trend of increased fatalities this year. MSHA has worked to leverage all the tools Congress gave the agency – outreach, education and enforcement – to protect miners and will continue to look for ways to work together with the entire mining community in reversing this trend,” Williamson added. 

The Hazen Mine in Hazen, North Dakota, was among the mines MSHA inspected in November. Selected given its enforcement history, the mine is operated by North Dakota Proppant. The inspection identified 30 violations, including 10 S&S and five unwarrantable failure findings. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found the following conditions existed at the Hazen mine:

  • Failure to provide and maintain guarding around moving machine parts. Overall, inspectors cited inadequate guarding most frequently during this inspection. The lack of appropriate protection from moving machine parts can contribute to fatal mine accidents and disabling injuries to miners.
  • Failure to provide safe access to working areas was the second-most frequently cited violation during this inspection. These conditions exposed miners to potential fall hazards. Earlier in 2023, MSHA issued a safety alert regarding the dangers associated with working at heights. The agency continues to remind operators and contractors of best practices for preventing falls, such as designing an effective fall prevention and protection program as well as providing task training.
  • Other serious violations including housekeeping violations, lack of berms around water, and equipment defects that were not corrected in a timely manner.

Learn more about MSHA.

Mine Safety & Health Administration
December 21, 2023
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Media Contact: Egan Reich
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