The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration rolled out the second phase in major reforms to its Pattern of Violations Process
The U.S. Department of Laborís Mine Safety and Health Administration rolled out the second phase in major reforms to its Pattern of Violations Process. These include tougher provisions for mines with chronic and persistent violations of significant health and safety regulations.
This announcement coincides with the release of an analysis prepared by the Labor Departmentís Office of Inspector General, which found that in 32 years MSHA had never successfully exercised its POV authority. The first phase of the new process involves screening criteria.
ìWe agree with the final recommendations in the OIG report and welcome that input, which we believe will help us improve the process already underway at MSHA,î says Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. ìOur efforts are focused on ensuring that future potential POV and POV determinations are an effective part of MSHAís enforcement strategy and advance Congressís intent ñ that mine operators find and fix the root causes of violations before they become a hazard to miners.î
MSHA says work on the current potential POV process is a stopgap measure to be used until other regulatory or legislative reforms occur.
Mines that have received potential POV notification can submit a corrective action program, which must contain concrete, meaningful measures to reduce their significant and substantial violations; achievable benchmarks and milestones for implementing the program; management oversight to ensure the program is being instituted and followed; and measures to find and fix the mineís specific compliance problems.
The new procedures include corrective action programs and measures to help ensure long-term compliance on the part of mine operators. A mine placed on a potential POV must meet more stringent goals to avoid POV sanctions. Mines that implement appropriate corrective action programs will need to achieve a 50% reduction in the rate of S&S violations or a rate within the top 50% for all mines of similar type and classification. Mines that do not choose to implement corrective action programs will need to achieve a 70% or more reduction in their S&S issuance rates or a rate within the top 35% for all mines of similar type and classification.
If a mine fails to meet the requirements of a potential POV and is placed on a POV, each violation that is determined to be an S&S violation will be an automatic closure order. To avoid that enforcement action, the mine operator must have a complete inspection of the mine by MSHA without a single S&S violation being found.
Any decision not to place a mine on POV status will be documented, and the mine will be closely monitored for backsliding. Mines that do meet reductions also will be monitored and subject to future potential POV screenings.
A POV panel consisting of personnel from three separate divisions of MSHA will review any questions raised on mitigating factors regarding mines selected for potential POV action. MSHA says this panel will help ensure consistency of application of both the quantitative and qualitative criteria.