MSHA Notifies 16 Mine Operators of Potential Patterns of Violations

June 23, 2008
As part of its enhanced enforcement initiative, MSHA sent letters to 16 mine operators announcing they have a potential pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

Two metal/nonmetal mines and 14 coal mines across the country received the letters in MSHA’s third round of such notification. Mine operators received the letter if they have a potential pattern of significant and substantial (S&S) violations, which could be expected to lead to serious injury or illness.

Operators have the opportunity to review and comment on the documents and develop a written corrective action plan to reduce S&S, failure to abate, imminent dangers and unwarrantable failure violations in order to be removed from the potential pattern. Many of the previously notified operators were able to reduce their violation rates or institute corrective action plans.

MSHA sent the first round of pattern of violation notices in June 2007 to eight mining operations. Seven of these operators met or exceeded the necessary criteria for reducing violation rates. They successfully and dramatically reduced their S&S violation rates an average of 50 percent during the 90-day review period. One mine closed.

In December 2007, MSHA notified 20 additional mine operators that they met the criteria for potential pattern of violations. These mine operators all instituted corrective action plans, and MSHA closely monitored their progress in reducing serious violations. The results were dramatic, with all 20 mines reducing S&S violation rates an average of 65 percent during the review period.

“Repeated safety and health violations by mine operators will not be tolerated,” said MSHA Administrator Richard E. Stickler. “These screenings represent just one part of MSHA’s comprehensive approach to enforcement, which I firmly believe has greatly improved our effectiveness. Naturally, the ultimate goal is safe and healthy conditions at all mines.”

MSHA will closely monitor the 16 affected mine’s compliance record during the ensuing 90 days. If the operator significantly reduces its violation frequency rate, it can avoid being issued a Notice of a Pattern of Violations. If MSHA does deliver the notice, however, each subsequent S&S violation will result in the agency issuing an order withdrawing miners from the affected area until the cited condition has been corrected.

An operator can be removed from a pattern of violations when 1) an inspection of the entire mine is completed and no S&S violations are found or 2) no withdrawal order is issued by MSHA in accordance with Section 104(e)(1) of the Mine Act within 90 days of the issuance of the pattern notice.

MSHA used data from the most recent eight quarters to determine an active mine operation’s eligibility for notification of a potential pattern of violations.

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