• Department of Labor completed impact inspections at 16 mines with histories of repeated health, safety violations in December 2023

    Department of Labor completed impact inspections at 16 mines with histories of repeated health, safety violations in December 2023

    The U.S. Department of Labor announced recently that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 16 mines in 11 states in December 2023, issuing 247 violations.

    Inspections resulted in 57 significant, substantial and 3 unwarrantable failure findings
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    The agency began conducting impact inspections after an April 2010 explosion in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.

    MSHA’s impact inspections in 2023 identified 2,739 violations, including 764 significant and substantial and 56 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one that is reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.

    The agency conducts impact inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and other compliance concerns. Of the 247 violations MSHA identified in December, 57 were evaluated as S&S and three had unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

    “In 2023, MSHA employees demonstrated the importance of conducting impact inspections by identifying hazards, issuing violations, and ensuring that corrective actions were taken to protect miners’ health and safety,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “In 2024, the Biden-Harris administration will continue to focus on good jobs, including ensuring that miners are able to return home each day to their families and their communities safe and healthy,” Williamson added.

    The Excel #5 Mine, an underground coal mine in Varney, Kentucky, was among the mines MSHA inspected in December. MSHA selected the mine for an impact inspection based upon numerous criteria, including enforcement history and plan compliance and examination issues. The mine is operated by Excel Mining. The inspection identified 20 violations, including nine S&S and two unwarrantable failure findings. Specifically, MSHA inspectors found the following conditions existed at the Excel #5 mine:

    • Failure to remove accumulation of combustible material. Combustible material accumulation was the most cited condition during this inspection. MSHA continues to remind operators of the importance of controlling the accumulation of combustible material to prevent fires and explosions.
    • Failure to maintain equipment in permissible condition was the second-most frequently cited condition during this inspection. These conditions exposed miners to explosion hazards due to exposed ignition sources.
    • Inadequate workplace examinations. Inadequate examinations have contributed to fatal mine accidents and disabling injuries and were identified as a root cause in several mining fatalities the industry suffered in 2023. MSHA has placed a priority on improving workplace examinations including the identification, correction and documentation of hazardous conditions to ensure miners’ safety and health.
    • Other serious violations included not adequately supporting roof and ribs and inoperable fire warning devices.

     Learn more about MSHA.

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