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Impact inspections at 20 US mines find 335 violations in April 2023

05 June 2023

The US Department of Labor has announced that its Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) completed impact inspections at 20 mines in 15 states in April 2023 and found 335 violations. MSHA began using impact inspections after an April 2010 explosion in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

Since 1 January 2023, MSHA’s inspections identified 914 violations, including 257 significant and substantial (S&S) and 18 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one 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 opens impact 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 355 violations MSHA found in April’s impact inspections were 92 significant and substantial and five unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

“Impact inspections highlight the need for mine operators to be vigilant at all times and act quickly to prevent accidents and repeat violations,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “MSHA uses impact inspections to protect the nation’s miners from exposure to the serious safety and health hazards that exist in mine operations.”

The findings in one of April’s impact inspections shows the importance of these targeted inspections in holding mine operators responsible for miners’ safety and health. MSHA opened an inspection in Ohio’s Sandusky County at the Martin Marietta Magnesia Special mine, a large surface lime plant and quarry near Woodville given the following concerns:

- Three recent hazard complaints and a 2022 nonfatal days lost accident rate almost three times higher than the national average for this type of mine.
- A serious accident on 11 April 2023, when a miner suffered injuries after a metal guard fell on them. Investigators determined the mine failed to maintain the guard properly. To date, the miner has not returned to work.
- An increased number of citations and orders.
- A high rate of significant and substantial citations and orders.

MSHA issued 26 citations following its impact inspection in Woodville. These included 14 significant and substantial violations with an S&S rate of about 54 percent. Inspectors also found violations in two areas of great concern: Martin Marietta did not barricade a hazardous area that exposed workers to serious and potentially fatal injury, similar to the 11 April injury, and failed to construct and maintain guarding that exposed workers to serious injuries. MSHA cited a lack of proper guarding as a factor in its 11 April injury investigation.

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