The U.S. Department of Labor said impact inspections completed at 18 mines in 12 states in June by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) resulted in 242 violations.
To date, MSHA’s impact inspections in 2023 have identified 1,435 violations, including 411 significant and substantial (S&S) and 22 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.
The agency began impact inspections after the deaths of 29 miners in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010, one of the deadliest in U.S. history. It conducts the inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and other compliance concerns.
Among the 242 violations MSHA issued in June, the agency evaluated 71 as S&S and found four to have unwarrantable failure findings. The inspections included mines in Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
“The Mine Safety and Health Administration remains troubled by the fact that our impact inspections continue to discover the same hazards we’ve identified as root causes for fatal accidents and that we know can cause serious occupational illnesses,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson.
“Mine operators are responsible for providing a safe and healthy work environment; this includes controlling miners’ exposure to health hazards like silica, preventing safety hazards such as unsafe electrical equipment and potential slips, trips and falls, and ensuring adequate workplace examinations and training.”
On June 6, MSHA conducted an impact inspection at Kentucky Fuel Corp.’s WV-3 Surface Mine in Logan County, W.Va., due to enforcement history and receiving hazardous condition complaints. The agency issued 42 violations to the mine operator, including 17 S&S and three unwarrantable failure findings, which included an order for aggravated conduct for failing to maintain effective dust-control measures on a drill.
MSHA also issued unwarrantable failure orders for safety defects found on haul equipment, including defective emergency steering, damaged tires, significant oil leaks and a defective back-up alarm. Inspectors learned several of these items were recorded and reported to the mine’s management for days on pre-operational examinations. MSHA has cited Kentucky Fuel Corp. 13 times in the last two years for similar violations.