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Agency Contacts, Fatality Reports and the Latest MSHA News.

The Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health division of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) enforces the Mine Act at all metal and nonmetal mining operations in the United States. This includes conducting inspections and investigations at mine sites to ensure compliance with health and safety standards required by the Mine Act. When inspectors and investigators observe violations of health or safety standards, they issue citations and orders to mine operators that require the operators to correct the problems.

Other important activities carried out as required by the Mine Act include:

  • Investigating mine accidents.
  • Examining complaints of discrimination reported by miners.
  • Investigating complaints of hazardous conditions reported by miners and criminal violations.
  • Developing improved safety and health standards.
  • Reviewing mine operators’ mining plans and education and training programs for miners.

Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health consists of a small headquarters office in Arlington, Va., as well as six district offices and 52 field offices and field duty stations located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Metal and nonmetal mines in the United States produce about 80 different minerals and commodities, and are separated into four broad categories: metal, nonmetal, stone, and sand and gravel.

Contact

Email

Phone

Kevin Stricklin
Acting-Administrator

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(202) 693-9602

Emily Hargrove
Acting Deputy Administrator

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(202) 693-9435

Lawrence Trainor
Accident Investigations Manager

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(202) 693-9644

Brian Goepfert
Chief, Safety Division

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(202) 693-9640

Monique Spruill
Chief, Health Division

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(202) 693-9464

Nancy Wilson
Management Officer

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(202) 693-9607

MSHA Fatalities

Fatality #1 –On Jan. 25, an articulated haul truck travelled through a berm and into an ice-covered pond, submerging the truck’s cab, at a CRH plc sand and gravel operation in Iowa. Rescuers utilized divers and tow trucks to pull the submerged truck from the pond and recover the victim.    

This is the first fatality reported in calendar year 2018 in metal and nonmetal mining.  As of this date in 2017, there was one fatal reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the first Powered Haulage fatality in 2018.  There were no Powered Haulage fatalities during the same period in 2017. 

MSHA recommends the following Best Practices:

  • Do not operate heavy equipment when fatigued. The effects of fatigue include tiredness, reduced energy, and physical or mental exhaustion. These conditions become progressively worse as fatigue increases.
  • Maintain control and stay alert when operating mobile equipment. Monitor persons routinely to determine safe work procedures are followed.
  • Conduct adequate pre-operational checks and correct any defects affecting safety in a timely manner prior to operating mobile equipment. Maintain equipment braking and steering systems in good repair and adjustment.
  • Operate mobile equipment at speeds consistent with the conditions of roadways, tracks, grades, clearance, visibility, curves, and traffic.
  • Ensure that berms are adequate for the vehicles present on site, including but not limited to height, material, and built on firm ground.
  • Ensure that all exits from cabs on mobile equipment, including alternate and emergency exits, are maintained and operable.
  • Use seat belts when operating mobile equipment.

Fatality #2 – On March 14, a miner sustained a fatal injury to his head while installing discharge chutes on the screen deck.  The suspended chute shifted striking him. The accident occurred at a Clyde Companies sand and gravel plant in Utah.

This is the second fatality reported in calendar year 2018 in metal and nonmetal mining. As of this date in 2017, there was two fatalities reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the first Machinery fatality in 2018. There were no Machinery fatalities during the same period in 2017.

MSHA recommends the following Best Practices:

  • Stay clear of a suspended load.
  • Follow proper rigging procedures when lifting loads.
  • Establish safe work procedures and identify and remove hazards before beginning repair or maintenance tasks. Follow the equipment manufacturer’s procedures for the work being performed to ensure that all hazards have been addressed.
  • Use welded lifting eyes that are specifically intended for lifting and adequately rated for the loads being lifted.
  • Carefully inspect all rigging prior to each use.
  • Train persons to recognize and control all hazards associated with performing repair or maintenance tasks.
  • Persons should communicate during maintenance tasks with each other.
  • Position yourself only in areas where you will not be exposed to hazards resulting from a sudden release of energy.
  • Attach taglines to loads that may require steadying or guidance while suspended. Stand clear of items of massive weights having the potential of becoming off-balanced while being loaded or unloaded
  • Assign a sufficient number of persons to repair or maintenance tasks to ensure the tasks can be safely performed.
  • Do not place yourself in a position that will expose you to hazards while performing repair or maintenance tasks.
  • Miners should wear fall protection when working at elevated heights.

Fatality #3 – On April 12, a 60-year-old customer truck driver was killed at Rye Dredge and Plant, Liberty County, Texas, when he fell from, and was run over by, his truck while scanning into the operator’s check-in system. The victim was found underneath the belly dump of the semi-trailer, and the truck was still in gear.

This is the third fatality reported in calendar year 2018 in metal and nonmetal mining. As of this date in 2017, there were three fatalities reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the second Powered Haulage fatality in 2018. There was only one Powered Haulage fatality during the same period in 2017.

MSHA recommends the following Best Practices: 

  • Implement check-in system technology that can be scanned remotely from inside the vehicle such as a RFID tag or indicator. 
  • Commercial and customer truck drivers should remain in their trucks while on mine property, unless a safe area for tarping and checking their loads has been designated.
  • Operators should place their equipment in neutral and set the parking brakes before exiting the operator compartment.
  • Rules establishing safe operating procedures should be posted.
  • Ensure workers who operate heavy equipment are adequately informed, instructed, trained and supervised.

Fatality #4 – At approximately 6:15 p.m. on May 9, a 27-year-old kiln technician with 32 weeks of experience was seriously burned while attempting to relight a rotary kiln. The accident occurred at a Lhoist Group facility in Alabama.

During the relighting, the kiln experienced a blowback and engulfed the victim in flames. The victim was airlifted to a regional burn center with serious burns. The miner passed away on May 28, due to injuries received in this accident.

MSHA did not issue a Best Practices recommendation for this fatality.

Fatality #5 – On June 13, a 65-year-old truck driver with four years of experience was fatally injured when his truck traveled over a berm and into an impoundment of water. Divers recovered the victim in 20 ft. of water. The accident occurred at a Kay King facility in Texas.

This is the fifth fatality reported in calendar year 2018 in metal and nonmetal mining. As of this date in 2018, there were four fatalities reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the second Powered Haulage fatality in 2018. There were two Powered Haulage fatalities during the same period in 2017.

MSHA recommends the following Best Practices:

  • Maintain control and stay alert when operating mobile equipment.
  • Conduct adequate pre-operational checks and correct any defects affecting safety in a timely manner prior to operating mobile equipment.
  • Maintain equipment braking and steering systems in good repair and adjustment.
  • Operate mobile equipment at speeds consistent with the conditions of roadways, tracks, grades, clearance, visibility, curves, and traffic.
  • Ensure that berms are adequate for the vehicles present on site, including but not limited to height, material, and built on firm ground.
  • Consider storing personal flotation devices in equipment that is being operated near water.
  • Ensure that all exits from cabs on mobile equipment, including alternate and emergency exits, are maintained and operable.
  • Use seat belts when operating mobile equipment.

Fatality #6 – On June 23, a 39-year-old electrician with 10 weeks of experience was fatally injured while trying to stop runaway railcars at Superior Silica Sands’ San Antonio Plant.

The miner ran to the front of a set of moving railcars and jumped on in order to set the hand brake. The miner then attempted to jump clear and was fatally injured when he was run over by the moving railcars.

This is the sixth fatality reported in calendar year 2018 in metal and nonmetal mining. As of this date in 2018, there were four fatalities reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the first Non-Powered Haulage fatality in 2018. There were no Non-Powered Haulage fatalities during the same period in 2017.

MSHA recommends the following Best Practices:

  • Apply a mechanical hand brake to ensure a railcar does not move when it is stopped for loading, unloading or storage. Use wheel chocks or derail devices for added protection against accidental movement.
  • Never attempt to mount, crossover, cross under or dismount a railcar while it is moving.
  • Train personnel in the safe procedures of working with railcars. Establish safe work procedures and ensure all personnel involved communicate clearly with each other.

MSHA News

MSHA announced it is seeking data on technologies that can improve safety conditions for America’s miners. MSHA’s Request for Information (RFI) focuses on reducing accidents involving mobile equipment at surface mines, and belt conveyors at surface and underground mines. The RFI is available at the Federal Register.

“The Trump administration is committed to the health and safety of America’s miners. Through the deployment of modern technologies, such as proximity detection, we can help ensure that miners return home safely at the end of their shifts,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David G. Zatezalo. “MSHA is also interested in learning more about how seat belts can be more widely used in mining operations to prevent injuries.”

Mobile equipment at surface operations includes bulldozers, front-end loaders and trucks, while belt conveyors are used to transport materials in surface and underground mines. The RFI is part of a larger initiative that MSHA is undertaking to reduce accidents involving powered haulage – which includes haul trucks, front-end loaders and other large vehicles – as well as belt conveyors. 

As part of this effort, MSHA plans to hold stakeholder meetings and will provide technical assistance, and develop best practices and training materials to raise awareness of hazards related to mobile equipment and belt conveyors.  

The agency also may consider engineering controls that increase the use of seatbelts, enhance equipment operators’ ability to see all areas near the machine, warn equipment operators of potential collision hazards, prevent an equipment operator from driving over the edge of a highwall or dump point, and help prevent hazards related to working near moving belt conveyors. 

The Federal Register will publish a separate notice at a later date in which MSHA will announce the dates and locations of stakeholder meetings.

Aggregates Operations Safer Than Retail Stores

According to the most current data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is safer to work in a quarry than a retail store.

Preliminary estimates indicate that aggregates operations attained a new record low injury rate in 2017, according to MSHA. This year’s rate is estimated at 1.74 per 200,000 hours worked, marking the 17th consecutive year that the rate improved. This translates to less than two reportable injuries for a workforce of 100 miners over the course of a year.

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) recently met with MSHA Administrator Zatezalo, deputy secretaries and a senior advisor to discuss the aggregates industry’s demonstrated commitment to safety and compliance.

Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, NSSGA senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs, and Joseph Casper, NSSGA vice president of safety, expressed a desire to help update outdated equipment standards and communicate best practices on seat belt use and fall protection. 

NSSGA reinforced the differences between coal and aggregates operations to the Zatezalo, who recently acknowledged that the agency has typically been viewed as a coal-centric organization. Zatezalo reiterated his desire for uniform enforcement across aggregates operations. He cautioned that it will take time to bring about these kinds of reforms and that he wants to hear any legitimate concerns from stakeholders, personally.

Unpaid Fines

Zatezalo and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced that the agency will look to collect $67 million of unpaid fines issued over the last decade.

Known as the MSHA Scofflaw Program, the agency issued 16 citations for failing to pay penalties since 2007. “Ultimately, a more robust Scofflaw Program is about more than collecting unpaid fines. It is about promoting the health and safety of America’s proud miners,” Zatezalo wrote in a March 6 opinion piece published by The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register. “If operators fail to show good faith and arrange to pay their penalties, MSHA will pursue them with every means under the law.”

Secretary Acosta told members of the House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee that recouping those unpaid fines are a high priority.

“Beginning immediately, we are notifying individuals that have not paid their fines – and they need to pay their fines. We have legal methods at our disposal that we can implement if they have not paid those fines,” he said.

NSSGA said it continues to push MSHA to provide support for compliance, including providing funding for small mines, so that operators and regulators work together to improve safety. The aggregates industry recently achieved a record-low injury rate of 1.74 per 200,000 hours worked. It is the 17th consecutive year that the rate improved.

New Technology

According to Avi Meyerstein of the law firm Husch Blackwell’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation team, MSHA announced that its mine safety inspectors are joining the digital age. Goodbye, “general field notes” on lined paper. Hello, customized tablets.

MSHA said that it’s now starting to deploy the new system, which it calls the “Mobile Inspection Application System (Mobile IAS).” It soon expects to connect all of its nearly 1,500 mine inspectors and enforcement staff with the technology.

For the last 18 years, MSHA inspectors had to carry a multitude of tools: “bulky” laptops, cameras, legal and policy reference materials, and documentation. Now, a single tablet will combine and replace all of those functions in one device and application.

Of course, the goal is that they will also be easier to use and more secure. MSHA said the new system will “facilitate data capture and streamline the inspection process.”

“Enabling mine inspectors to work more efficiently means more time to focus on the health and safety of America’s miners,” said Zatezalo. “MSHA’s Mobile IAS is expected to improve the quality of information by eliminating redundancy, and provide more timely information for inspectors.”

The new MSHA system includes:

  • A Windows-based, semi-ruggedized tablet with camera, video, audio recording, touch screen, digital pen, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
  • A custom application “with photo capture and fillable, pre-populated forms.”
  • Efficient data transfer among devices and the MSHA Standardized Information System.

What does this mean for you? For one thing, we should expect a learning curve. You may have to bear with inspectors as they put the new system through its paces and try to capture notes, photos, and maybe more during inspections.

No doubt, MSHA will provide significant training to its employees on using the new devices. But, rolling out new technology can be a bumpy road even in companies where the work force is accustomed to the latest high-tech gear. At MSHA, this may be a major upgrade.

Armed with these new tools, will inspectors try to record more photos, audio or video? Will the challenges of reading some inspectors’ handwriting on field notes be a thing of the past? Will MSHA be able to provide inspection files more quickly (when it’s willing to do so) before conferences and/or litigation?

If MSHA inspectors are like any other workforce, we should expect a wide range of user skills and adoption. Some will make full use of the new devices while others may struggle to do the bare minimum. The system will only be as good as its users, and the training and support they receive. But, if the tablets eventually do result in more efficient inspections, they could be a win for everyone.