Soon after the announcement that Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, was being indicted on federal charges related to the cover-up of unsafe conditions at mines operated by the company, MSHA announced that mining deaths are on target to reach an all-time low.
In a recent Associated Press article, MSHA officials credited the agency’s aggressive use of team inspections, in which a team of inspectors mobilizes at one mine and conducts a thorough investigation. The mines are chosen from a list of mines with a pattern of violations, much like OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program list. The first list contained 51 mines – 42 of which were coal mines – and the most recent list contains 12 mines, six of which are coal mines.
Assistant Secretary of Labor – MSHA Joseph Main, told AP, “I think we’re seeing a cultural change in the mining industry,” a sentiment backed by industry officials.
Bruce Watzman, vice president of regulatory affairs at the National Mining Association, told AP that many mine operators view MSHA regulations “as the baseline and they work beyond that.”