Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


MSHA announces findings of March 2024 impact inspections completed at 14 mines with histories of repeated health, safety violations

Inspections identified 74 significant, substantial; 4 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 11 states in March 2024, issuing 199 violations and one safeguard.­­

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

Since 2023, MSHA’s impact inspections have identified 3,333 violations, including 959 significant and substantial and 63 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one that could contribute in a significant and substantial way to the cause and effect of a safety or health hazard. 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 199 violations MSHA identified in March 2024, 74 were evaluated as S&S and four had an unwarrantable failure finding. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

“The results of March’s impact inspections uncovered several serious violations, including putting miners at risk of fire and explosion hazards and impeding miners’ ability to escape emergency situations,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson.

The Crimson Oak Grove Mine — an underground coal mine in Jefferson County, Alabama — was selected for an impact inspection after the mine experienced an elevated citation rate during the previous quarter along with numerous hazard complaints.

Inspectors arrived at the Oak Grove mine on March 20, 2024, and secured the phone systems on the surface that provide communications to the underground mining sections. This stops miners on the surface from calling miners underground to warn them of MSHA’s presence. One inspector stayed on the surface to address safety hazards, another traveled the belt conveyors, and three inspectors and one supervisor traveled underground to both continuous mining machine sections.

The inspection resulted in a total of 39 citations and one order, 18 of which were designated as S&S violations. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found the following conditions existed at the mine:

  • On the surface, inspectors observed numerous conditions and issued 16 violations with seven S&S findings. These conditions include equipment in unsafe operating condition and personal protective equipment not being worn and exposing miners to safety hazards.
    • A 104(g) withdrawal order was issued to a contractor on site for not being properly trained. Section 104(g)(1) of the Mine Act provides for the withdrawal of untrained miners from a mine until they receive the minimum training required by Section 115 of the Mine Act and 30 CFR Part 46 or 48. The purpose of the order is to eliminate the hazard that untrained or inadequately trained miners pose to themselves and others.
  • Underground, inspectors found that the mine was not following the approved roof control plan, exposing miners to the threat of falling rock from the mine’s roof and ribs (side), and loose unsupported pots in the roof, also known as kettle bottoms. MSHA remains vigilant in reminding operators of the importance of following roof control plans, conducting thorough pre-shift and on-shift examinations, as well being alert for changing conditions on the mine site.
    • A sound roof control plan is essential for controlling the roof, face and ribs, including coal or rock bursts in underground coal mines. Each mine operator is required by 30 CFR 75.220 (a) (1) to develop and follow a roof control plan, approved by the district manager, that is suitable to the prevailing geological conditions and the mining system to be used at the mine.
  • Other conditions found by inspectors at the mine include poor maintenance of an escapeway and a lifeline used for safe passage in the event of an emergency, accumulations of combustible materials, damaged ventilation stoppings, permissibility issues on equipment, a damaged guard, not maintaining the fire suppression system on a piece of diesel equipment, electrical equipment defects and inadequate examinations.
    • If not corrected these violations could present a fire or explosion hazard underground or impede miners’ escape in case of an emergency. Importantly, the lifeline standard is required by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, enacted after several fatal accidents in underground coal mines.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Original article published by MSHA