The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) completed impact inspections at 16 mines in May, issuing 279 violations and one safeguard.
MSHA 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. The agency began impact inspections after an April 2010 explosion in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.
Among the violations, MSHA cited 83 significant and substantial violations. An S&S violation is reasonably likely to lead to a reasonably serious injury or illness. MSHA conducted inspections at mines in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
So far in 2023, MSHA’s impact inspections have identified 1,193 violations, including 340 S&S and 18 unwarrantable failure findings. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.
“The Mine Safety and Health Administration is troubled by the fact that our impact inspections continue to discover the same hazards we’ve identified as root causes for many of the fatal accidents that have occurred this year,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “Mine operators are responsible for providing a safe and healthy work environment and adequate training for their employees. Impact inspections remain an important tool to hold operators accountable and require corrective actions that eliminate hazards that put miners’ safety and health at risk.
“In addition to enforcement actions, MSHA has issued safety alerts on electrical and slip, trip and fall hazards, and provides educational, outreach and compliance assistance materials to the mining community to emphasize the importance of adequate workplace examinations and training,” said Williamson.
On May 9, MSHA conducted an impact inspection at Holcim US Inc.’s Portland Plant and Quarry in Fremont County, Colo. Inspectors issued 56 citations to the mine operator, and two citations and one order to contractors on-site. Among these, 15 violations were designated S&S.
During the inspection, MSHA found an untrained contract miner working and issued an order to the contractor to withdraw the miner immediately. The Mine Act requires MSHA to issue an order immediately withdrawing untrained miners because they present a hazard to themselves and others. MSHA also issued a citation to the contractor for failure to wear a seat belt while operating mobile equipment.
Specifically, the agency cited Holcim US for the following conditions:
- Failing to conduct adequate workplace examinations. Inadequate examinations have contributed to fatal mine accidents and disabling injuries. During inspections, MSHA has placed a priority on improving workplace examinations including the identification, correction, and documentation of hazardous conditions, to ensure miners’ safety and health.
- Seventeen electrical hazard violations, including two designated as S&S. The operator was cited for exposed and energized electrical conductors and damaged electrical equipment that exposed miners to electrical shock hazards.
- Exposing miners to several hazards that led to S&S violations – some of which were repeat violations – related to the following: Failing to install and maintain guards; not providing a safe means of access to various work areas around the mine; failing to maintain working areas free from slip, trip and fall hazards.
In addition to Holcim, during May, impact inspections also targeted Heidelberg Materials, Rocky Mountain Aggregate & Construction LLC, Hard Rock Quarries, LLC, Lane Mountain Silica Co., Buzzi Unicem SPA, Dragon Products Company Inc. and Black Rock Services.