The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that three mining operations have been put on notice of a pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under Section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. The POV screening is the first one conducted since MSHA’s revised pattern of violations rule went into effect on March 25, 2013.
“These revisions improve MSHA’s ability to act when it finds a pattern of violations,” the agency said in a release.
Of the nation’s 14,600 mine’s that were inspected by MSHA, two in West Virginia (Brody Mining LLC’s Brody Mine No. 1 in Boone County and Pocahontas Coal Company LLC’s Affinity Mine in Raleigh County) and one in Kentucky (Tram Energy LLC’s Mine No. 1 in Floyd County) were given POV notices.
The agency is still reviewing the injury records of several mines to determine if they should be considered for a POV notice based on this screening.
“Under the Mine Act, MSHA is authorized to issue a POV notice to mine operators that demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of significant and substantial violations,” MSHA said in a statement. “A POV notice, one of the agency’s toughest enforcement actions, is reserved for the mines that pose the greatest risk to the safety of miners. An S&S violation is one that is reasonably likely to result in a reasonably serious injury or illness. The Mine Act requires mines that receive POV notices to be issued withdrawal orders – effectively ceasing operations – for all S&S violations.”
In the first 33 years of the Mine Act no mines were given POV notices. These POV notices mark the third year in a row that MSHA has issued notices.
"MSHA’s new POV rule, which we will vigorously enforce, enhances protections for miners and shifts the responsibility for monitoring compliance and taking action to prevent POV enforcement actions to the operator,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
The new rule eliminated the requirement that MSHA consider only fully adjudicated orders in its POV review, shifted responsibility for monitoring compliance to the mine operator and mandated that operators submit corrective action programs to proactively address issues that could lead to a POV.
In 2010, MSHA identified 53 mines for review, issuing 17 potential POV notices and two POV notices. The October 2011 screening resulted in the review of 39 mines and the issuance of eight potential POV notices. In 2012, MSHA identified 20 mines and issued four potential POV notices. This year, MSHA identified nine mines for additional review. The improvements made in 2010 to the screening criteria were designed to help MSHA better identify the mines that present the greatest risks to miners, and the criteria has remained largely unchanged since they were implemented.
"The decrease in the number of operators meeting the POV criteria shows that the POV process is working–many operators are cleaning up their acts, even when MSHA is not looking over their shoulders,” said Main.