The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) voiced strong opposition to a number of provisions in a proposed rule that calls for increased federal penalties for alleged mine safety violations and limits an operator’s ability to contest such fines. NSSGA testified Dec. 4 at the first of several U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) hearings on the proposed civil penalty changes near Washington, D.C. The association said it will echo similar concerns at a second hearing in Denver, Dec. 9, and at upcoming hearings announced today.
“The good work done by both operators and MSHA to boost compliance and enforcement consistency demonstrates that changes in the proposed rule run counter to the agency’s stated goals and are unnecessary,” said NSSGA’s Vice President of Safety Services Joe Casper. “Arbitrarily increasing fines and eliminating a producer’s due process to respond to these citations will not create safer quarries.”
The rule seeks to reduce operators’ incentives and options to contest, settle and litigate citations. It reduces the range of inspector choices in evaluating mine conditions resulting in more severe and costly penalties and it limits an administrative law judge’s ability to evaluate citations impartially.
“The first priority of the aggregates industry is, and will continue to be, the safety and health of our workers, as well as compliance with MSHA standards,” Casper said.
He added that the heightened effort by the industry to protect workers through the development and implementation of more effective safety and health programs is working.
“The existing partnership between industry, its workforce and the government’s education, training and compliance programs is effectively reducing injuries and fatalities,” Casper added.