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MSHA News Release: [02/28/2013]
Contact:   Amy Louviere
Phone:    (202) 693-9423
Release Number 13-369-NAT

MSHA announces results of January impact inspections
Numbers demonstrate initiative is working, says Main

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 245 citations and 13 orders during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and six metal/nonmetal mines last month.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. These matters include high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation; and respirable dust.

"We believe that the impact inspection initiative has made mines safer," said Joseph A Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "According to a recent evaluation of mines targeted in this special enforcement program, there have clearly been improvements."

From April 2010 through December 2012, total violations (per 100 on-site inspection hours) decreased 15 percent in coal mines and 13 percent in metal/nonmetal mines, significant and substantial violations decreased 19 percent in coal mines and 33 percent in metal/nonmetal mines, unwarrantable failure violations decreased 43 percent in coal mines and 60 percent in metal/nonmetal mines, and operator-reported lost-time injuries per 200,000 hours worked decreased 8 percent in coal mines and 14 percent in metal/nonmetal mines.

"However, as we have also said, some mines still don't get it, and we will not hesitate to use our enforcement tools when we identify those mines," said Main.

As an example from last month, MSHA conducted an impact inspection Jan. 15 at Rain Coal Co. LLC's No. 1 Mine in Floyd County, Ky. Immediately upon arrival, MSHA personnel secured the mine's communication system to prevent advance notice of the inspection. Inspectors traveled from the surface to the section along three routes the primary escapeway, where they inspected the air course and seals along the intake, the conveyor belt entry and the alternate escapeway. They issued 54 citations and five orders that resulted in closure of the mine until Jan. 23. This impact inspection was the first conducted at this mine.

The impact inspection was conducted in part to investigate an anonymous hazardous condition complaint, which resulted in some of the enforcement actions. MSHA enforcement personnel issued 13 citations and orders related to permissibility, section equipment and non-compliance with approved plans. The mine was issued a 104(d)(1) citation for failure to drill in advance of mining in the #1 and #2 entries when mining within 200 feet of an adjacent mine. Prior to MSHA's inspection, miners were permitted to continue working on the section, risking exposure to an inundation of water, blackdamp or explosive gases when mining into the adjacent mine works.

The mine operator failed to comply with the approved ventilation plan by using the wrong sprayer heads on the continuous mining machine and failing to maintain proper water pressure to control respirable dust and to suppress sparking that could potentially cause an ignition. When tested, water pressure was 20 pounds per square inch; the ventilation plan required 50-100 psi. This inspection marked the 12th time in two years that MSHA has cited the operator for failing to follow the approved ventilation plan.

The operator also was cited for failing to conduct weekly and on-shift examinations, including required examinations of a shuttle car, a continuous mining machine, a mobile face drill and a roof bolter. Had these examinations occurred, the operator should have identified the hazards MSHA cited.

The operator placed the mine in non-producing status on Feb. 11.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 565 impact inspections and issued 9,840 citations, 922 orders and 40 safeguards.

    — See Spreadsheet

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