MSHA’s Special Impact Mine Inspections Result in Hundreds of Citations

When MSHA conducted special impact inspections at 20 mines in September, the agency uncovered safety concerns that included accumulations of combustible dust, an open and unsupported excavation hole, nonworking self-contained self-rescuer units, inadequate pre-shift examinations, inadequate testing of electrical grounding systems and more. The inspections resulted in a spate of citations, orders and safeguards against the mines.

Special impact inspections target mines that MSHA deems are in need of “increased agency attention and enforcement” due to poor compliance history or compliance concerns. MSHA began conducting these inspections in April 2010 in the wake of the deadly Upper Big Branch Mine explosion.

As part of the September 2011 inspections, MSHA inspected 18 coal mines and two metal/nonmetal mines. Across all 20 mines, MSHA issued 374 citations, orders and safeguards – 292 citations, 28 orders and one safeguard for coal mines and 52 citations and one order for the metal/nonmetal mines.

At the D & C Mining Corp.'s underground coal mine in Harlan County, Ky., for example, MSHA issued an imminent danger order for a cigarette lighter found near the continuous mining machine. This condition provided an ignition source in the presence of combustible materials, loose coal and coal dust accumulations in an area with inadequate rock dust to prevent an explosion. The investigators’ findings marked the second time since February that smoking articles were found underground at this mine.

Inspectors also wrote two withdrawal orders for D & C’s inadequate roof and rib supports at the face area of the mine. Violations included loose, unsupported drawrock, as well as wide roof and rib bolt spacing, all of which created the potential for roof and rib collapses. Altogether, this mine racked up seven withdrawal orders, one imminent danger order and 11 citations, of which 16 were designated significant and substantial.

"The closure order is still one of the most effective tools inspectors have to bring about compliance, even during impact inspections," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We will not hesitate to use this and other enforcement tools to protect the nation's miners."

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 347 impact inspections, which have resulted in 6,187 citations, 584 orders and 22 safeguards. A PDF of the September 2011 inspection list can be downloaded here.

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