Mine safety bill reportedly in the works

By |  July 26, 2012

NSSGA reports Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is developing new mine safety legislation. An initial summary of the proposal, which has not yet been introduced, includes a number of items seen in previous mine safety bills. The items all target mine operators, and NSSGA is opposed to them all.

The legislation is reportedly a response to the report on what went wrong to cause the 2010 Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in West Virginia. MSHA admitted that it could have inspected the facility more thoroughly, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health has been critical of aspects of MSHA’s enforcement culture.

Among the provisions NSSGA believes to be included in Harkin’s bill are a significant increase in the number of operator employees who could be deemed liable for civil and criminal penalties for violations; a reduced threshold for a violation to be labeled as “willful,” thus increasing the potential gravity of citations; and a broadly expanded subpoena authority, serving to limit privacy of business records.

While NSSGA says this legislation is unlikely to be considered by the current Congress, the association says the legislation indicates “an ongoing interest to push punitive mine safety legislation under the guise of improving mine worker safety.”

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