Contact: Dirk Fillpot
Phone Number: (202) 693-9406
Release Number: 06-0290-NAT
MSHA to Raise Mine Safety Penalties
25-Year-Old Penalty Rules Targeted for Overhaul
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced it intends to modernize decades-old regulations governing penalty assessments for violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act, or Mine Act. MSHA will initiate new rulemaking to propose revisions to the penalty structure, including increases in penalties.
"MSHA's current penalty structure is 25 years old and needs updating to strengthen incentives for compliance," said David Dye, acting MSHA administrator. "Mine safety violations put workers at risk, so the penalties for those violations need to be serious and straightforward. Updating the penalty structure will advance MSHA's goal of sending every miner home safely at the end of his or her shift."
Congress sets the maximum level of penalties MSHA can assess for violations of the Mine Act. Legislation to raise the maximum penalty MSHA can assess from $60,000 to $220,000 for flagrant violations has already been sent to Congress. Fines below the maximum level set by Congress are determined by applying MSHA regulations that have remained largely unchanged since 1982. Under these regulations, the monetary penalties that mine operators must pay are calculated under a formula that assigns each violation "points' based on six statutory criteria. The point total for the violation determines the monetary penalty assessed.
The six statutory criteria used to determine the assessed monetary penalty are:
- The appropriateness of the penalty to the size of the business of the operator charged;
- The operator's history of previous violations;
- Whether the operator was negligent;
- The gravity of the violation;
- The demonstrated good faith in correcting the violations; and The effect of the penalty on the operator's ability to continue in business
- Under the regulations now slated to be revised, MSHA currently can assess fines ranging from $60 to $60,000 per violation.
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