Report: APP CMHS Project 1

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3.6.1. Safety and Health Management

3.6.1. Safety and Health Management

A report on the Legislative Frameworks and Regulatory Capacity for Health and Safety in U.S coal mines was compiled by representatives from the United States, Dr. Kelly L. McNelis, Ms. Lindsey DeBor, and Dr. Launa Mallett from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for Coal Mine Health and Safety Steering Committee in February, 2010. The safety and health management in U.S. coal mines is extracted from the report and cited in this section.

The first federal mine safety statute in the United States was passed in 1891, which imposed underground mine ventilation requirements and prohibited mine laborers under the age of 12, among other things. The first code of federal mine safety regulations was created in 1947, followed by the more comprehensive and stringent Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Public Law 91-173). The Coal Act set up mine inspections, strengthened safety standards, adopted health standards, and put an end to state enforcement plans. In 1973, a safety and health enforcement agency was created by the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration under the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The landmark coal mine safety and health legislation was the 1977 Federal Mine and Health Safety Act (the Mine Act, Public Law 95-164), which amended the Coal Act and set up the framework for making proposed rules into mandatory health and safety standards. The aim of the act was to set in place effective means and measures for improving the working conditions and practices in U.S. coal (and other mines) in order to prevent the death, physical harm, or disease of miners. Miners’ rights were expanded under the act, and mining fatalities dropped dramatically in subsequent years even as coal productivity continued to increase.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was created under the 1977 Federal Mine and Health Safety Act, when it was moved from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the U.S. Department of Labor and renamed. MSHA is the agency responsible today for health and safety regulations governing the mining industry, with over 200,000 workers. MSHA’s operating budget in the 2006 fiscal year was $278 million. The regulations of MSHA govern coal mining equipment, procedures, certification and training in the areas of methane monitoring, dust control, ventilation, noise, electrical equipment, explosives, fires, hoists and haulage, roof support, maps, communications, and emergency response. MSHA has direct authority to shut down operations for reasons of imminent danger, but the mine will reopen once the situation is rectified.

Some individual states also have coal mine safety and health regulations. They may also have inspection authority and responsibilities. Mine must follow federal regulations unless the laws in their states are more stringent, in which case, the state can enforce their stricter statutes. This report covers the federal and therefore, uniform requirements for coal mines in the United States.

Inspectors and Inspections

Health and Safety Inspectors

The MINER Act 2006 prescribes that inspectors should have at least five years of practical mining experience, or equivalent education. At the lowest entry level for hiring, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors must have at least one year of practical mining experience or an engineering degree and must pass a written test, oral interview, and physical examination. The entry level inspector trainees receive extensive additional training or education in order to elevate into higher grades levels. Inspector candidates with more extensive experience and education are hired at a higher level.

Rotations of inspectors to different mines are done yearly as a general rule, but may be done more frequently in some instances. Inspectors are not required to be re-qualified, but the inspectors receive retraining periodically to remain current with new technologies, inspection procedures, and policies. MSHA regular inspectors receive two weeks training at the MSHA Mine Academy every two years. Specialist inspectors normally receive training annually, but other non-scheduled training may occur when the need arises.

Section 103(a) of the MINER Act gives MSHA inspectors the immediate right of entry to all mines subject to inspection under the 1977 Coal Mine Safety and Health Act. Inspectors arrive unannounced and do not need warrants or other special permissions to enter the premises of mine properties for the purposes of inspections or investigations.

Inspection Procedures

Mines must be inspected in their entirety. All areas of the mine are subject to prescriptive regulations, but some of MSHA’s regulations are performance based, such as where mine plans are involved. MSHA specialist inspectors assist regular inspectors with problematic areas of inspection where a higher level of expertise may be necessary. Examples include: electrical issues, mine roof and ground control, underground ventilation, health issues, and surface mine impoundment sites.

Section 103(a) of the mine Act requires that mines receive at least four annual inspections for underground mines and two annual inspections for surface mines. Section 103(i) of the Mine Act requires inspections at designated mines with greater frequency, based on specific hazards. Additional inspections or investigations are required for accidents, safety or health complaints, discrimination complaints, or investigations of violations involving agents of the operators where they may be individually liable under Section 110 of the Act.

During inspections, inspectors may examine records and copy them, but generally do not remove records from the mine. In some MSHA investigative circumstances, mine records may be taken with a receipt given to the mine operator.

Inspectors must issue citations or closure orders for all violations observed. Violations for infractions of MSHA regulations or portions of the Mine Act are prescribed under Sections 104(a), 104(b), 104(d) and 107(a) of the Act. Mine operators or their agents are served with copies of the violations, which detail the nature of the violation - including the inspector’s evaluation of the violation gravity and negligence and the number of miners that could be affected. Reports of the violations are also available on the MSHA website. Copies of specific violations cited by MSHA may be obtained by making a request in writing to MSHA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Requestors may be subject to fees for searching and copying the records.

Mine operators or their designees may travel with MSHA during the physical portions of the inspections and investigations. Operators may obtain the notes and related documents through the FOIA - or if they file a contest with the Mine Health and Safety Review Commission - copies may be made available through the discovery process for litigation purposes.

Operators can challenge the findings of inspectors at several levels. They can engage in on-site mine conferences with the issuing inspectors, request a Health and Safety conference through the local MSHA district manager, file a contest with the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission for an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing, appeal ALJ decisions with the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and appeal decisions to Federal District Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Operators’ Responsibilities

Responsibilities Regarding Accidents

As outlined in Title 30, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 50: Notification, Investigation, Reports and Records of Accidents, Injuries, Illnesses, Employment, and Production in Mines, mine operators are required to file reports pertaining to accidents, occupational injuries, and occupational illnesses. For serious accidents or certain accidents with a high potential, as defined in Part 50, the operator is required to immediately contact MSHA. For other accidents with lesser potential, mine operators are required to submit the information on an MSHA Report Form 7000-1-Mine Accident, Injury, and Illness Report within ten days of the accident. MSHA gathers this information and compiles this data into several databases. Through MSHA’s Data Retrieval System, Accident and Injury data can be accessed by mine operators and the general public on MSHA’s internet page under “Statistics.” The information and data is also used by MSHA for determinations of mine operator safety and health performance and to formulate inspection strategies and special emphasis activities.

For most mining plans, operators must notify and obtain prior approval from MSHA before conducting mining activities. Mine operators must notify MSHA if closing or abandoning a mine.

Responsibilities Regarding Emergency Response

Mines must have plans in place for emergency evacuation procedures, including deployment of Self Contained Self Rescuers (SCSRs) for underground escape. They must also have provisions for mine rescue teams and plans for emergency response, including communications, post-accident breathable air, barricading or shelters, emergency notification contacts, and on-site logistics during emergencies.

Mines are required to have a mine rescue notification plan outlining procedures to follow in an emergency that requires mine rescue teams’ response. Emergency situations associated with mining can vary greatly, depending on circumstances. Emergencies that would involve the use of mine rescue teams would typically result from mine gas explosions, mine fires, collapse of mine roof, or inundations of water or dangerous lethal gas in a mine. In such events, miners could be trapped or missing and mine rescue teams would be used to locate and recover missing miners. Rescue teams must be available within one hour of travel time. Mine rescue teams do not need to be familiar with a specific mine for which they provide rescue team coverage.

Mine rescue team members must have been employed in an underground mine for a minimum of one year in the past five years. Team members must pass a rigorous physical examination and receive a certification from a physician that they are physically fit to perform rescue and recovery work. Teams must conduct regular training and annual retraining. Each team member must complete at least 20 hours of initial training in mine rescue before serving on a team. Each team member must also receive at least 40 hours of refresher training annually; the training must be given at least four hours every month or eight hours every two months. To remain proficient, many teams also participate in mine rescue contests, competing against other mine rescue teams.

Collaboration between States

State agencies work with the Federal Agency or MSHA in most states. MSHA’s Technical Support Group provides assistance with technical personnel and laboratory work to mine operators, which is often shared with state agencies. Levels of cooperation vary, depending on state mandates and priorities. MSHA district inspection offices frequently share mine plan information to resolve potential conflicts based on differences in regulations or requirements.


Civil and criminal penalties are detailed in Section 110 of the Mine Act. Mine Operators and agents of the mine operator are subject to civil and criminal penalties under this section. Agents of the operator include front-line foremen and others exercising control over all or portions of mining properties at the front-line level. Higher mine management officials could be subject to liability based on involvement and knowledge of circumstances. Officials such as presidents, CEO’s, could be subject to citations and penalty assessments (i.e. fines) in certain circumstances. For example, if the officials had knowledge of a condition or practice at a mine site, they could be subject to the sanctions under Section 110 of the Act.

Employee Rights and Responsibilities

Employees’ Rights

Section 105(c) of the Act contains provisions to protect miners while engaging in “protected activities”, such as making safety and health complaints, talking to inspectors, pointing out violations and hazards, and refusing to work in an unsafe manner.

Employees have the right to be present at inspections of an area of operation under their control. They may be present during inspections; however, Section 103(f) of the Act provides the right for miners or representatives of the miners to accompany inspectors by affording them “walk-around rights” during the physical portions of inspections. Section 111 of the Act gives employees the right to receive pay for the affected shift if a closure order is issued by MSHA.

Employees’ Responsibilities

Employees do not hold any legal responsibility under the Mine Act, although MSHA strongly encourages all mine employees to be personally responsible for their own safety and health, as well as for their co-workers. The only penalty provisions in place for employees are for violating smoking standards. Miners or a representative of the miners can call for MSHA to make complaint inspections for hazards under Section 103(g) of the Act.

Under parts 46 and 48, Title 30 CFR, training, retraining, task training, and hazard training are required. Training of the miners is to be done during normal work hours and the miners must receive pay for the training. As a result of violative conditions, there could be occasions where miners must be retrained.

Regulator Responsibilities

The regulator (i.e. MSHA) is not responsible for developing new training programs. The mine operator is required to provide training plans; however new training programs are developed by mine operators, State Grant recipients, contractors, individual states, and the MSHA Training Academy.

The regulator is also not responsible testing new mining equipment. MSHA Technical Support tests and approves new mining equipment for intrinsic electrical safety and suitability for underground usage.

No requirements exist for mine management to accompany inspectors. At their discretion, mine management personnel do frequently accompany the inspectors. MSHA follow-up inspections are generally done to check on unabated citations or to check the status of unabated closure orders.

Disciplining inspectors for passing over violative conditions is rarely done by MSHA. Mining is frequently very dynamic and fast changing, altering or rapidly creating conditions and factors leading to violative conditions.

3.6.1. Safety and Health Management

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