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MSHA completed impact inspections at 15 mines with histories of repeated health, safety violations in May 2024

Resulted in 62 significant and substantial violations, 5 unwarrantable failure findings

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections in May 2024 at 15 mines in 12 states, leading the agency to cite 300 violations and one safeguard.

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

MSHA’s impact inspections since 2023 have identified 3,880 violations, including 1,088 significant and substantial violations and 68 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 300 violations MSHA identified in May 2024, 62 were evaluated as S&S and five had unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

“The results of this month’s impact inspections highlight the need for mine operators to focus continually on thorough and effective mine examinations. These examinations are one of the most important tools that can be used to keep miners safe and healthy,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “Mine operators must remain vigilant in conducting required examinations and establish a safety culture in which miners are encouraged to identify hazards, the hazards are corrected, and corrective actions are recorded.”

Mast Mine in Pennsylvania’s Somerset County was among the mines selected in May for an impact inspection. Operated by Heritage Coal & Natural Resources LLC, this surface coal mine was selected due to prior enforcement history in the two open pit areas and preparation plant at the mine. Although the mine underwent a recent ownership change, MSHA inspectors found safety conditions had not improved. 

Three inspection teams with two inspectors each arrived at the mine on May 9, 2024, after the day shift began and immediately went to separate, predetermined areas of the mine. Fourteen violations of mandatory safety and health standards were observed, including five designated as S&S, and four with unwarrantable failure findings. The impact inspection included the following findings:

  • The inspection team assigned to the preparation plant found an elevated walkway not properly maintained. They observed an unsecured piece of metal grating covering an opening in the walkway that could be removed easily, and materials on the walkway around a rotary breaker that created slip, trip and fall hazards. Inspectors also found an unguarded drive chain on the rotary breaker, which put miners at potential risk of injury. Inspectors determined these hazards existed for almost one month. Three unwarrantable failure violations were issued because of the hazardous conditions, some of which were documented in the work shift examination record book.
  • Inspectors found that the mine operator failed to conduct required examinations for multiple shifts at the preparation plant, resulting in an unwarrantable failure violation. Inspectors also observed equipment parked on a grade without blocks to prevent motion, unlabeled hazardous chemical storage tanks and an emergency stop cord that did not extend the full length of an unguarded belt walkway. MSHA continues to remind operators about the importance of conducting required examinations, taking actions to correct hazardous conditions and recording corrective actions.
  • Inspection teams also identified other hazardous conditions at the two open pits including unguarded moving machine parts, damaged steps that provide access to mobile equipment, no tag providing a record of examination for a fire extinguisher, oil accumulations on mobile equipment engines and a generator cable connected improperly, creating a shock hazard.

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