MSHA Extends Comment Period on Civil Penalties Rule

The rule would simplify the criteria and increase the relative weight of those that reflect the seriousness of the operator's conduct.

Dec. 3, 2014, is now the deadline for mining companies and other stakeholders to comment about MSHA's proposed changes in its civil penalty regulation, emphasizing serious safety and health conditions. Proposed in July 2014, the rule would simplify the penalty criteria used in writing citations and orders.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 sets six criteria for determining the agency's civil penalties for violations. The rule would simplify the criteria and increase the relative weight of those that reflect the seriousness of the operator's conduct: negligence, history of violations, and the severity aspect of the gravity of the violation.

MSHA is asking for comments on providing an additional 20 percent good faith penalty reduction when the operator does not contest, promptly abates the violation, and pays the penalty.

The existing minimum penalty of $112 and the maximum penalty of $70,000 for non-flagrant violations would not change, but minimum penalties for unwarrantable failure violations would rise "to provide a greater deterrent for operators who allow these violations to occur," according to the agency's posted explanation of the rule.

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