MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main

Deadline Extended for Comments on POV Changes

MSHA proposed to revise its Pattern of Violations regulation on Feb. 2, and the changes it wants to make are a priority for Assistant Secretary Joe Main. Stakeholders now have until April 18 to submit comments.

Stakeholders have a little more time, until April 18, to submit comments about the Mine Safety and Health Administration's important proposed rule to revise its Pattern of Violations regulation. Assistant Secretary Joe Main has testified recently about the necessity of changing the current requirement that only citations and orders that have become final are to be used to identify mines with a potential pattern of violations.

POV enforcement was authorized by Congress during the Carter administration to make it possible to target enforcement at recurrent violators and, it was hoped, prevent mining disasters.

"There is a reason that no administration -- Democratic or Republican -- has figured out how to effectively apply the current statutory POV program. It is broken and can be improved only so much through regulation," Main said in his March 31, 2011, testimony before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "For example, under some circumstances, the POV provisions of the existing Mine Act could potentially put some mines in POV status indefinitely while, under other circumstances, it would be insufficient to ensure long-term change. While we believe we are making significant improvements to the POV program within the confines of the current statute, changes to the law that provide MSHA the tools to engage in a long-term, more remedial approach with chronic violators would be a significant improvement to current law."

The Feb. 2 proposed rule's text points out that, as of November 2010, about 88,000 contested violations were pending before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and cases completed during November 2010 required an average of 518 days to make contested violations final. The requirement blocks MSHA from reviewing the complete recent compliance history of a mine with contested citations and orders, which hinders its ability to enforce the POV regulation effectively, according to the rule. "The final order provision in the existing regulation provides an incentive for operators to contest S&S [Significant & Substantial] violations to avoid being placed under a POV," it states.

To submit a comment, visit www.regulations.gov and search RIN 1219-AB73, e-mail the comment to zzMSHA-comments@dol.gov and include that number in the subject line, or fax the comment to 202-693-9441.

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