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MSHA Proposes to Raise Mine Safety Fines

MSHA has put coal mine operators on notice: Harsher penalties are in the works.

The agency published a notice in the Sept. 8 Federal Register announcing that it plans to raise civil penalties for coal mine operators who violate the Mine Safety and Health Act. The agency also announced that it will hold six hearings for public comment in various locations throughout the country.

MSHA Acting Administrator David Dye says the agency "anticipate[s] that these stronger penalties will induce mine operators to improve their safety and health programs."

The proposed rule incorporates the MINER Act provision that imposes a maximum penalty of $220,000 for flagrant violations. MSHA's proposed rule includes a minimum penalty of $2,000 for unwarrantable failure violations and $4,000 for repeated similar violations.

The proposal also would establish a penalty of $5,000 to $60,000 for operators who fail to notify MSHA within 15 minutes of a death, injury or entrapment with reasonable risk of death at a mine.

Under this rule, MSHA proposes to eliminate the current $60 single penalty assessment for nonserious violations that are corrected in a timely manner. Under the proposal, MSHA would use a formula system for processing most violations; however, penalty amounts would increase.

MSHA has restructured the proposed schedule to reflect higher penalties for mine operators who have a history of repeated violations of the same standard.

MSHA estimates that had the new penalty structure been in place since 2005, fines nearly would have been tripled.

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