Federal inspectors issued 272 citations, 37 orders and two safeguards to 16 coalmines during special impact inspections conducted last month, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, announced.
Of those 16 coalmines cited, six of them were in West Virginia: Mountaineer Pocahontas Mine No. 1, in Greenbrier County, controlled by John B. Preece; Maple Eagle No. 1 Mine, in Fayette County, controlled by Walter Energy Incorporated; Randolph Mine, and Justice #1, both located in Boone County and controlled by Alpha Natural Resources, Inc.; Upper Cedar Grove No. 4, in Logan County, controlled by Joe Valis; and Dingess Chilton Mine, in Logan County, controlled by Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
In total, West Virginia coalmines accounted for 68 citations and 18 orders. Of the issuances given, 39 of them were “S&S,” or “significant and substantial.”
The MSHA website states that violations likely to cause reasonably serious injury (so-called "significant and substantial" violations) are assessed according to a formula that considers six factors:
History of previous violations; size of the operator's business; any negligence by the operator; gravity of the violation; the operator's good faith in trying to correct the violation promptly; and effect of the penalty on the operator's ability to stay in business.
These factors are determined from the inspector's findings, MSHA records, and information supplied by the operator.
The number of “S&S” violations each mine received last month is as follows:
Mountaineer Pocahontas Mine No. 1 - five; Maple Eagle No. 1 Mine - one; Randolph Mine - six; Justice #1 - six; Upper Cedar Grove No. 4 - nine; Dingess Chilton Mine: 12.
According to MSHA, an Aug. 19 inspection at Upper Cedar Grove No. 4 resulted in a total of seven citations and eight orders, nine of which were designated as significant and substantial.
Six unwarrantable failure closure orders and one unwarrantable failure citation involved violations related to ventilation, the mine’s emergency response plan, and unsafe conditions and practices that arose from a lack of proper and complete examinations.
In addition, the operator, Glen Alum Operation LLC, failed to notify MSHA of a change from non-producing to producing status within three working days as required.
The inspection results also show that MSHA received one Hazard complaint/Hotline Call from both Upper Cedar Grove No. 4 and Dingess Chilton Mine.
Special impact 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; indications of operator tactics, such as advance notification of inspections that prevent inspectors from observing violations; 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.
Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 327 impact inspections, which have resulted in 5,843 citations, 555 orders and 21 safeguards.
“As we continue to conduct impact inspections at mines with compliance problems or other health or safety issues, there are indications that the industry is getting the message and improving health and safety practices,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said.
“But for mine operators not getting the message, MSHA will use impact inspections and other enforcement tools at our disposal to protect the health and safety of their miners.”