Three MSHA Districts Piloting Citation Backlog Program

Starting Aug. 31, Coal District 2 in Mt. Pleasant, Pa.; Coal District 6 in Pikeville, Ky.; and Metal/Nonmetal Southeast District in Birmingham, Ala., are trying a new resolution effort using conferences prior to penalty assessment.

MSHA has chosen through district offices as test sites for a 90-day pilot program aimed at reducing the huge backlog of contested citations. About 89,000 violations are backlogged, MSHA reported, and Congress recently appropriated $18.2 million to the Labor Department and $3.8 million to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to work on reducing them.

Choosing these three allows the program to be tried by a wide range of mine operators and different MSHA personnel, according to MSHA. Mine operators have the right to request a conference with MSHA officials to dispute citations issued by federal mine inspectors; the program will allow the mine operator and the miners' representative to hear MSHA's interpretation of regulations and discuss and resolve issues involving violations before penalties are assessed.

"It is clear that the current conferencing structure is not working," said Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "By resolving factual disputes before a violation is contested, these citations will not be added to the enormous backlog of cases that have bogged down the judicial system. This process should also improve consistency in MSHA's enforcement of the Mine Act." The three offices are Coal District 2 in Mt. Pleasant, Pa.; Coal District 6 in Pikeville, Ky.; and Metal/Nonmetal Southeast District in Birmingham, Ala.; the program starts Aug. 31.

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