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US Department of Labor announces findings of latest mine impact inspections across 10 states

28 November 2023

The US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 13 mines in 10 states in October 2023, issuing 215 violations. MSHA began 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

To date, impact inspections in 2023 have identified 2,307 violations, including 654 significant and substantial (S&S) and 46 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 conducts 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. Of the 215 violations MSHA identified in October, 50 were evaluated as S&S and six had unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed October’s inspections at mines in Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

“The October 2023 impact inspections show miners’ safety and health continues to be put at risk and in ways that are completely preventable,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “We remain troubled and concerned with the continued trend in our impact inspections. This trend includes inspectors finding violations that put miners’ lives at risk, such as float coal dust, improper fall protection and a lack of adequate workplace examinations.”

The Longview Mine in Volga, West Virginia, was among the mines MSHA inspected in October. Selected given its history of accidents and inadequate examinations, the mine is operated by Century Mining LLC. The inspection identified 12 violations, including three S&S and four unwarrantable failure findings.

The inspection led the agency to issue an imminent danger order. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found:

- Accumulations of float coal dust on two separate conveyor belt lines, resulting in two unwarrantable failure orders.

- Inadequate examinations on the same conveyor belt line resulted in two more two unwarrantable failure orders. Inadequate examinations have contributed to serious mine accidents and have been identified as a root cause in several mining fatalities in 2023. MSHA has placed a priority on improving workplace examinations including the identification, correction and documentation of hazardous conditions to ensure miners’ safety and health.

- Two miners working for a contractor were observed on a roof 20 feet above ground wearing safety harnesses that were not tied off as required. MSHA issued an imminent danger order and a related S&S citation and withdrew the two miners from the mine. MSHA issued a safety alert in 2023 regarding falls from height and continues to remind operators and contractors on best practices for preventing falls, such as designing an effective fall prevention and protection program as well as providing task training.

“Violations are not just numbers. Each one represent a hazard to miners whose safety, health and lives are being put at risk needlessly. MSHA will continue to enforce the law, while also providing compliance assistance to mine operators, so that the mining industry makes progress in reversing the troubling upward trend in fatalities,” Williamson added.


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