By Terrance V. Newhouse
Dramatic mine injuries early in 2006 have ended in passage of the 1st significant modification to federal mine defense legislations considering 1977. The Mine development and New Emergency reaction Act calls for every one mine to have an emergency plan, elevated provides of oxygen, and stronger rescue groups. consequences for violations have additionally been elevated. even though the invoice had broad aid in Congress, a few participants have characterized it as just a 'first step', to be through extra measures that might comprise a reduce greatest restrict on airborne dirt and dust concentrations, underground refuges, communications and monitoring units, and bigger emphasis on enforcement of criteria. On January 2, 2006, the state used to be reminded of the hazards of underground mining, as 12 miners died in an explosion and fireplace within the Sago mine in West Virginia. as a result, the Mine defense and healthiness management (MSHA) issued new laws; Congress has handed the 1st significant revision of the mine protection legislations on account that 1977 and has taken additional debts into consideration; and, country legislatures in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois have tightened their very own legislation. those responses have emphasized components idea to have performed a component within the Sago tragedy, together with emergency oxygen offers, monitoring and verbal exchange structures, and deployment of rescue groups. There have additionally been proposals to extend the consequences for violations of security criteria.
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In respect to our characterization of the Washbash Mine Holding Co. case, the Commission disagreed with GAO’s conclusions. We agree with the Commission that the reasons supporting the reduction are clearly explained. However, we continue to believe that the rationale for the final penalty amount was not well documented. In our analysis, we could not discern the specific reasons why the judge determined that $10,000 was the appropriate fine. We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services, the Chief Commissioner of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, relevant congressional committees, and other interested parties.
Finally, given the trends over the past 10 years for penalties contested by mine operators, the higher proposed penalties under MSHA’s new penalty structure will likely lead more operators to appeal. This reaction is also likely to increase the number of cases that are settled by Labor’s Solicitor’s Office, MSHA’s CLRs, and the ALJs at the Commission using methods to determine final penalty amounts that are more subjective than penalties proposed using MSHA’s standard formula. As a result, it is important that penalty decisions are transparent and contain the necessary information to understand how final penalty amounts are set.
MSHA also explained that there are other avenues that instructors can use to stay current on mining issues, such as attending an annual conference dedicated to training resources for the industry. MSHA also recognized the need to improve the data it maintains on instructors and noted that it has plans to improve its tracking and dissemination of up-to-date information on approved instructors. In response to our recommendation that MSHA and NIOSH develop a memorandum of understanding, both agencies concurred with the need for a formal agreement and stated that such an agreement will help strengthen their coordination activities.