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Section 3 .... Definitions

I.3-1 Definitions of "Operator" and "Mine"
Section 3(d) of the Act expands the definition of "operator" to include independent contractors. Regulations governing independent contractors are found in Part 45 of Title 30 CFR. MSHA policy regarding independent contractors is set forth in this Manual in Volume III, Parts 45 and 50.

Section 3(h)(1) of the Act defines the term "mine" and includes related milling operations within that definition. Mine development, rehabilitation activities, and exploration work at an established mine are within the Act's scope. All types of mining, including placer, dredge, and hydraulic operations must be inspected. Government owned or operated mines and mills, whether federal, state, county, or other, are included within the jurisdiction of the Act. All such operations located anywhere in the United States, as well as in any of its territories, protectorates, or commonwealths, must be inspected.

I.3-2 Jurisdiction Over Mine Roads
Section 3(h)(1)(B) of the Act defines MSHA's authority to assume jurisdiction of mine roads which pass through federal land administered by agencies that do not have responsibility for health and safety on those roads.  The criteria or factors listed below will be used for determining jurisdiction.  The presence of any of these factors should each weigh in favor of inclusion of the road under MSHA jurisdiction.

  1. The road is owned by the mine operator;

  2. The road is maintained by the operator;

  3. The operator has the legal right to bring the road into compliance with MSHA regulations;

  4. The road is used exclusively to provide access to the mine, or to other mines of the operator;

  5. The road provides an exclusive or a major means of access for mine vehicles; or

  6. The road was built by or for (by contractor) the mine operator.
I.3-3 Jurisdiction Over Alumina Refining Facilities
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in 1975 in Alumina Company of America v. Morton that the alumina refining process is milling. As such, it is subject to MSHA jurisdiction under Section 3(h)(1) of the Act.

I.3-4 Jurisdiction Over Coal Loading Facilities
Sections 3(h)(2) and 3(i) of the Act address coal loading facilities over which MSHA asserts jurisdiction.  These facilities will be examined to determine the nature and purpose of the work that takes place there.  If the facility prepares coal according to any specifications for benefit of either the operator or the consumer, MSHA will inspect the facility.  MSHA will not inspect facilities where coal is prepared solely to facilitate loading and not to meet specifications or to render the coal for any particular use.  Local OSHA authorities should be informed by MSHA district personnel of any determination to terminate jurisdiction over a loading facility.

I.3-5 Jurisdiction Over Coal Preparation Plants
Section 3(i) of the Act addresses jurisdiction over private or custom preparation plants and other related surface coal facilities not directly associated with a single mine or group of mines.

Section 4 .... Mines Subject to the Act

I.4-1 MSHA/OSHA Interagency Agreement
MSHA and OSHA have entered into an agreement to delineate certain areas of inspection responsibility, to provide a procedure for determining general jurisdictional questions, and to provide for coordination between the two agencies in areas of mutual interest.  MSHA has jurisdiction over operations whose purpose is to extract or to produce a mineral.

MSHA does not have jurisdiction where a mineral is extracted incidental to the primary purpose of the activity.  Under this circumstance, a mineral may be processed and disposed of, and MSHA will not have jurisdiction since the company is not functioning for the purpose of producing a mineral.  Operations not functioning for the purpose of producing a mineral include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. key cuts in dam construction (not on mining property or used in mining);
  2. public road and highway cuts;
  3. tunnels
    1. railroad
    2. highway
    3. water diversion, etc.; and
  4. storage areas
    1. gas
    2. petroleum reserves
    3. high and low level radioactive waste.

The question of jurisdiction in these and similar types of operations is contingent on the purpose and intent for which the facility is being developed.

I.4-2 Jurisdiction Over Refractory Mills
The MSHA/OSHA Interagency Agreement provides that OSHA shall have jurisdiction over "brick, clay pipe, and refractory plants" (Section B.6.b). In these operations, both milling and manufacturing occur.  The effect of Section B.6.b. is to grant to OSHA jurisdiction over plants that include a manufacturing process resulting in a product such as bricks, clay pipe, insulators, or other finished forms of refractories.

I.4-3 Jurisdiction Over Borrow Pits
Section 6(b)(7) in the MSHA/OSHA Interagency Agreement states:

'Borrow Pits' are subject to OSHA jurisdiction except those borrow pits located on mine property or related to mining.  (For example, a borrow pit used to build a road or construct a surface facility on mine property is subject to MSHA jurisdiction.)  'Borrow Pit' means an area of land where the overburden, consisting of unconsolidated rock, glacial debris, or other earth material overlying bedrock is extracted from the surface.  Extraction occurs on a one-time basis or intermittently as need occurs, for use as fill materials by the extracting party in the form in which it is extracted.  No milling is involved, except for the use of a scalping screen to remove large rocks, wood and trash.  The material is used by the extracting party more for its bulk than its intrinsic qualities on land which is relatively near the borrow pit.

Thus, if earth is being extracted from a pit and is used as fill material in basically the same form as it is extracted, the operation is considered to be a "borrow pit."  For example, if a landowner has a loader and uses bank run material to fill potholes in a road, low places in the yard, etc., and no milling or processing is involved, except for the use of a scalping screen, the operation is a borrow pit.  The scalping screen can be either portable or stationary and is used to remove large rocks, wood, and trash.  In addition, whether the scalping is located where the material is dug, or whether the user of the material from the pit is the owner of the pit or a purchaser of the material from the pit, does not change the character of the operation, as long as it meets the other criteria.

District managers should contact headquarters regarding any questionable operations before final determinations are made.

Section 103 .... Inspections, Investigations and Recordkeeping

I.103-1 Assaulting, Intimidating or Impeding Inspectors
Section 111 of Title 18 of the United States Code makes it a federal crime to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate or interfere with any person designated in Section 1114 of Title 18 while such person is engaged in, or on account of, the performance of his/her official duties.  It is a crime to assault, intimidate or impede MSHA employees who are assigned to perform investigative, inspection, or law enforcement functions. Thus, any person who assaults, intimidates or impedes an MSHA inspector, while the inspector is engaged in, or on account of, the performance of his/her official duties, is subject to investigation and arrest by the FBI, prosecution by the U.S. Attorney in the federal courts, and to a fine and/or imprisonment.

MSHA policy requires the inspector to leave the scene where a confrontation appears to be developing into a situation where an apparent violation of Section 1114 or 111 is about to occur.  In order to avoid a confrontation, the inspector should inform the person(s) that an attack on an MSHA inspector is a federal crime, and that the person(s) may be subject to investigation and arrest by the FBI.  If an inspector(s) believes that he/she may be subject to physical harm or assault, the inspector should leave the property immediately and promptly notify his/her supervisor.

If an inspector encounters harassment or delays during a mine inspection, the inspector should attempt to complete the inspection without further provoking the operator.  Afterwards, the inspector's supervisor should be contacted. 

In the event of an assault, intimidation, harassment, or the impeding of an inspection, the supervisor is responsible for collecting all the facts, reducing them to writing, and contacting the district or assistant district manager.  Where the assistant district manager is contacted, the assistant district manager must then immediately contact the district manager.  The district manager will notify the Technical Compliance and Investigations Office (TCIO) for further instructions.  If the inspection is not the result of an imminent danger complaint, no inspection personnel should return to the mine without approval from headquarters.  If it is an imminent danger complaint, an inspector and a supervisor should again attempt to conduct the inspection.  No less than two inspection personnel should be sent to the mine property at this time.

I.103-2 Company Release Forms
An inspector shall not sign a responsibility release form when entering a mine to perform his duties.  An inspector may sign a check-in and check-out book located at the mine, provided that it does not involve release of liability.  Denial of "right of entry" for not signing a release shall be reported in accordance with Section 108 of the Act.

I.103-3 Performance of Work Other Than Inspections and Investigations
Inspectors may provide safety and health educational assistance. The inspector shall not perform any work at a mine.

I.103-4 Respirable Dust and Noise Sampling
Each underground coal mine operator develops a respirable dust control plan for maintaining compliance with the 2.0 milligram or lower standard.  MSHA reviews and tests the operator's respirable dust control plan by taking samples in accordance with MSHA’s Health Inspection Procedures Handbook.  Once the plan is approved, inspectors measure the engineering parameters during each inspection to assure that all of the plan's elements are followed. If the plan is not being followed, the appropriate citation/order is issued.  Respirable coal mine dust samples are collected during the four annual coal mine underground inspections for each active sampling entity.

Respirable coal mine dust samples are collected at surface mines in accordance with the Health Inspection Procedures Handbook.  These samples will be collected during the two annual surface mine/facilities inspections for each active sampling entity.

Noise samples will be collected at locations in accordance with the Health Inspection Procedures Handbook.  Noise samples will be collected one time per year on each active coal mine (surface/facilities and underground).

I.103-5 Reporting and Investigating Blocked Passage Through the Tailgate Side of Longwall Mining Operations in Coal Mines
See Part 50 in Volume III of this Manual.

103(a) Mandated Inspections
Section 103(a) of the Act requires a minimum of four inspections a year for underground mines and a minimum of two inspections a year for surface mines. Consistent with Section 103(a) of the Act,
the procedures for conducting the inspection of an underground mine in its entirety at least four times a year and a surface mine (including a facility)in its entirety at least twice a year are set forth in the respective General Inspection Procedures Handbooks for Coal and Metal and Nonmetal.

MSHA's interpretation is that this requirement applies to full-time producing mines operating for the entire fiscal year period. For mines which started operating in the middle of the fiscal year, fewer inspections are required. MSHA's policy for these mines is based on an average of one inspection every quarter for underground mines and an average of one inspection every six months for surface operations. Underground mines in an inspectable status for 45 days or more in a quarter require an inspection, and surface operations in an inspectable status for 90 days or more in a six month period require an inspection.

For intermittent surface mines, MSHA's policy requires one inspection a year.

If a coal mine has an ongoing re-opening inspection under 303(x) of the Mine Act, the number of days from the start date to the end date of that inspection will be excluded from the calculation of the time available for a regular inspection.

If a mine has received an Attempted Inspection (Denial of Entry) event during the inspection period, no inspection is required for that period.

If the status of a mine changes to abandoned, abandoned sealed, or temporarily idle before the end of the inspection period and remains in one of those statuses, no inspection is required. Inspection requirements for previous inspection periods remain in effect.

103(a) Authority to Inspect - Authorization for Representatives
Inspections and investigations under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 shall be conducted only by persons who have been authorized by the Secretary to conduct such inspections or investigations.  The inspector's authorization shall be available during inspections and investigations.

103(a)Authority to Conduct Special Investigations - SI Credentials
Section 103(a) of the Act authorizes MSHA to conduct special investigations as an integral part of the Agency's enforcement program.  The Technical Compliance and Investigation Divisions (TCID) are responsible for overall administration and management of the special investigations program.  In order to promote the consistent application and management of the program, TCID will develop statistical and management information based on special investigations activities in the field.  This includes evaluating the effectiveness of each district's special investigation program, monitoring district compliance with national policies and procedures, and providing periodic updates on the status of cases. As part of the Agency's accountability program, accountability reviews of the special investigations program will be conducted by the national office on a recurring basis.  TCID has responsibility for the following sections of the Act:

  1. Section 105 complaints of discrimination filed by miners and other protected persons;

  2. Section 108 injunctive actions; and

  3. Section 110 civil and criminal violations of the Mine Act and/or mandatory safety and health standards.

The special investigations program does not have responsibility for nor does it conduct internal investigations.  Any allegations of employee misconduct, including advance notification of inspections, should be referred to the appropriate Administrator.

Investigations of discrimination complaints and possible knowing and/or willful violations shall be conducted only by persons who have been authorized by the Secretary to conduct special investigations.  Special investigator (SI) credentials will be issued by the Assistant Secretary for MSHA to those persons who have completed the specified investigator training.  SI credentials will be carried at all times when conducting special investigations.  Improper use or failure to safeguard SI credentials may result in disciplinary action.  Only MSHA approved SI credentials may be used in the performance of any special investigation and may only be used by the authorized representative to whom the SI credentials have been issued.

103(a) Advance Notice
Section 103(a) of the Act prohibits giving advance notice of inspections conducted by an authorized representative of the Secretary of Labor.

However, there are limited occasions when advance notice is contemplated by the Act.  An implied exception to the prohibition against advance notice exists in Section 103(g)(1).  In this case, where a representative of the miners or a miner gives notice of what he believes to be an imminent danger, the operator or his agent must be notified "forthwith."  Such notification will almost always have the effect of indirectly giving notice of an inspection.

The Act does not prohibit advance notice of investigative activities (activities which are not direct enforcement activities).  However, notice of investigative activities shall only be given when there is a need for such notice.  Clearance and direction must be obtained from the inspector's supervisor before notice is given for investigative activities.  Investigative activities include:

1.   Obtaining information for health and safety research;

2.   Technical assistance, including field certifications;

3.   Obtaining information for petitions for modifications, etc.;

4.   Criminal investigations;

5.   Education and training;

6.   Investigation of discrimination complaints;

7.   Demonstrations of research or prototype equipment; and

8.   Investigation of hazard complaints.

Any information relating to inspection and investigation schedules, including an inspector's mine assignments, shall be restricted solely to MSHA personnel who have need of such knowledge.

It is important to note that even in cases where direct enforcement activities are involved, it may be necessary to make some type of arrangement with personnel at the mine when certain preparations are essential to carry out enforcement activities.  The important point to remember is that any arrangements or notice relating to an enforcement activity that is not essential to carry out that activity is considered to be "advance notice" as the term is used in Section 103(a) of the Act.

Clearance must be obtained from the inspector's supervisor before notice is given for preparation essential to an enforcement activity.  In all cases where there is a representative of miners, when notice of either enforcement or investigative activities is given, it will be given to representatives of both the operator and the miners.  Examples of possible essential preparations are described below:

1.   If an inspector intends to include a routine second- or third-shift inspection, it might be necessary for him to designate a time and meeting place so that the representatives of the operator and miners can be given an opportunity to accompany the inspector.  Pre-selected meeting sites should not reveal the specific areas to be inspected.  However, it is recognized that the normal progression of an inspection may reveal remaining areas to be inspected.

  1. When special preparations are needed during an inspection for an examination of a mine power system, it is permissible for the inspector to make arrangements for the inspection of the electrical system during scheduled down time.
  2. If it is necessary to interrupt an inspection for any cause, the inspector is permitted to inform the operator that the inspection is interrupted and will be resumed at the discretion of the inspector.
  3. Advance notice may be given when a coal mine operator is afforded an opportunity to adjust respirable dust control measures and establish conditions that will prevail during a respirable dust technical inspection, which has a primary purpose of determining the adequacy of the operator's dust control plan as a basis for district manager approval or disapproval of that plan.