MSHA Announces Results of November Impact Inspections

MSHA recently announced that federal inspectors issued 315 citations, orders, and safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and six metal/nonmetal mines last month.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently announced that federal inspectors issued 315 citations, orders, and safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and six metal/nonmetal mines last month. The coal mines were issued 200 citations, 50 orders, and one safeguard, while the metal/nonmetal operations were issued 62 citations and two orders.

These 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, including 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; and adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions, and inadequate ventilation.

One of MSHA's most recent impact inspections was conducted during the day shift on Nov. 17 at Daystar Coal LLC's No. 3 Mine in Pike County, Ky. (Pike Floyd Mining Inc. since has taken over as operator of the mine.) The phones were captured and monitored during the inspection, which resulted in the issuance of 52 citations, 11 orders, and one safeguard.

The mine was issued an imminent danger order when an inspector observed that a bearing on a conveyor tailpiece was glowing orange with smoke rising from it in the presence of accumulations of float coal dust, coal fines, and loose coal. The mine also allowed accumulations of float coal dust for a distance of 200 feet on top of previously rock dusted surfaces on the mine floor. Loose coal up to 18 inches deep had accumulated under the conveyor belt drive in the presence of ignition sources.

Inspectors also found that the mine operator failed to follow the approved ventilation plan. Inspectors observed the cutting machine operating with virtually no air ventilating the mining face to remove respirable coal dust and gasses from the environment. The mine operator's failure to follow the plan created conditions that expose miners to the risk of black lung and explosions. Unwarrantable failure orders were issued for the accumulation of water at depths of 10–12 inches in front of seals in the return air course and in other locations throughout the mine. In addition, the operator failed to provide experienced miner training to 17 miners before they assumed their work duties underground and on the surface. The miners were withdrawn from the mine until they received the required training.

All the citations issued during this impact inspection were modified to 104(b) failure-to-abate orders, and the mine subsequently was placed on abandoned status Dec. 5 and then on temporarily idled status Dec. 8 under new operator Pike Floyd Mining Inc.

"I am particularly concerned about what goes on at mines with these kinds of inspection results when MSHA is not there," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "MSHA will continue to use all available tools at its disposal, including closure orders, to keep miners safe."

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 374 impact inspections, which have resulted in a total of 6,645 citations, 666 orders and 23 safeguards.

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