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Pa. Coal Firm Fined $874,500

R&D Coal Co., a northeast Pennsylvania anthracite mining company, has been fined $874,500 by MSHA for alleged violations that contributed to an October explosion that caused the death of one if its workers. The company is one of the first to be fined under MSHA's new flagrant violations procedures.

Dale Reighter, 43, was killed in the methane blast during an explosives detonation at the underground mine.

A flagrant violation, according to MSHA's new penalty structure, is “a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury.” Under the MINER Act, a civil penalty of up to $220,000 may be assessed for each flagrant violation.

Inadequate Ventilation Among “Flagrant Violations”

During the accident investigation at R&D, MSHA officials identified and cited 10 violations, five of which received special assessments under the flagrant violation provision of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006.

These alleged flagrant violations include failure to:

  • Stem the boreholes prior to blasting as required ($145,300).
  • Follow the provisions of the MSHA-approved roof control plan ($145,300).
  • Assure that volume and velocity of air current was sufficient to eliminate harmful gases ($116,350).
  • Maintain entry development with temporary ventilation controls to no more than 600 feet ($145,300).
  • Conduct a proper pre-shift examination of the mine prior to the start of the work shift ($116,350).
  • Maintain an accurate and up-to-date map of the mine (non-contributory) ($127,000).

“Mine operators that show reckless disregard for the well-being of their workers must be held accountable for their actions,” MSHA Administrator Richard Stickler said. “MSHA will not hesitate to assess stiff penalties against coal companies that fail to comply with safety and health regulations.”

Other remaining alleged violations that contributed to the blast, but aren't classified as “flagrant,” include failure to:

  • Follow the provisions of the MSHA-approved ventilation plan ($31,200).
  • Comply with blasting procedures that require persons to vacate the blasting area ($8,400).
  • Comply with firing procedures that require shots to be fired by a qualified person ($17,500).
  • Provide a proper warning prior to firing a shot ($8,400).
  • Ensure that loading of explosives in boreholes is completed by qualified persons ($8,400).
  • Immediately (within 15 minutes of the occurrence) notify MSHA of the fatality ($5,000).
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