Miners Are Safer Now Than a Year Ago, MSHA Says

According to a recent news release from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), miners are safer today than one year ago due in large part to the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, signed into law on June 15, 2006, that resulted in strengthened seals, additional breathable air, and higher civil penalties.

"MSHA has put in place many meaningful protections for miners in the past year, and we continue working diligently to fully implement the MINER Act," said Richard E. Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for Mine Safety and Health Administration. "The MINER Act gave MSHA additional tools to help improve mine safety nationwide, and we are working hard to get these protections in place for America's miners. We are meeting our MINER Act deadlines."

Since the MINER Act was signed into law, MSHA said it has aggressively implemented the MINER Act by:

  • Establishing new maximum penalties for flagrant violations. MSHA has already issued 13 citations for flagrant violations, two of which were assessed at the maximum penalty level of $220,000;
  • Issuing an ETS to increase the strength of seals in underground coal mines to 120 pounds per square inch (psi), and requiring environments behind 50 psi seals to be monitored and maintained inert, seven months before the deadline imposed by Congress;
  • Requiring more self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs) in every underground coal mine;
  • Requiring fire-resistant lifelines in all underground coal mines;
  • Mandating additional safety training and training on the use of SCSRs at underground coal mines;
  • Requiring redundant underground to surface communications systems in underground coal mines; and
  • Requiring all underground coal mines to submit emergency response plans that include, among other things, post-accident breathable air for trapped miners.

MSHA also credited other various actions taken by the agency that included issuing an ETS on mine evacuations three months before the MINER Act was enacted, launching special emphasis programs to examine retreat mining practices and coal dust control methods, issuing new civil penalty regulations that will nearly triple prior total fines, and releasing comprehensive accident reports on the Sago, Aracoma, and Darby accidents that provide teaching models for lessons learned.

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