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US Department of Labor issues 188 violations in latest impact inspections at 15 mines

27 February 2024

The US Department of Labor has announced that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 15 mines in 10 states in January 2024, issuing 188 violations. The agency began conducting impact inspections after an April 2010 explosion in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

MSHA’s impact inspections since 2023 identified 2,927 violations, including 827 significant and substantial (S&S) and 57 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one that could contribute in a significant and substantial way to the cause and effect of a safety or health hazard. 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 188 violations MSHA identified in January, 63 were evaluated as S&S and one had unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Because of these impact inspections, MSHA was able to identify powered haulage, highwall, inadequate training and other hazards that endangered miners and require corrective actions to protect miners’ safety and health,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson.

“MSHA’s new written safety program for surface mobile equipment rule is aimed at protecting miners from machinery and powered haulage accidents. The powered haulage violations cited during these impact inspections and the two fatalities that have occurred this year so far reinforce the urgency for the entire mining community that it must continue to focus on hazard identification and powered haulage and machinery accident prevention,” Williamson added.

Inspectors arrived at the Lone Star Quarry and Mill at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Jan. 24 and broke out into teams to begin an inspection within 15 minutes. MSHA inspectors identified and cited 24 violations, including 13 designated as S&S, with several hazardous conditions that posed a significant risk to the safety and health of miners. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found the following conditions existed at the mine:

- Multiple places with unconsolidated loose rock on a highwall, which could cause fatal injuries to miners from falling rock. In 2023, MSHA issued a highwall rock safety alert, and continues to remind operators of best practices such as training miners to recognize highwall hazards, conducting highwall examinations and restricting highwall height.

- Several defects on a haul truck in operation, exposing miners to the risk of serious injury in the event of a steering or dump brake failure.

- Inadequate parking procedures for unattended equipment that exposed miners to crushing hazards. MSHA recently issued a final rule requiring mine operators to have written safety programs for surface mobile equipment to protect miners from machinery and powered haulage accidents.

- Other serious violations, including housekeeping hazards, fire hazards, and electrical hazards. These conditions exposed miners to a risk of injury related to slips, trips and falls, smoke inhalation and burns.


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