Main addresses concerns of aggregate associations

By |  July 17, 2012

MSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Joe Main outlined a number of initiatives and reforms his agency has undertaken over the last two years in remarks Monday to several Midwest state aggregate associations. He also reflected on the disaster that killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch in April 2010 and described how the accident forced MSHA to reexamine safety and health.

“It unquestionably shook the very foundation of mine safety and health, and caused all of us to take a deeper look at the weaknesses in the safety net expected to protect the nation’s miners,” Main says. “There has been an intense examination of that tragedy, and MSHA and the industry have undergone significant change as we have sought to find and fix deficiencies in mine safety and health.”

Main points to an 8-percent decline in citations and orders issued from 2010 to 2011, as well as a 12-percent decline in the number of significant and substantial (S&S) citations and orders, as a sign of improvement throughout the industry.

Another MSHA initiative Main discussed is enhanced enforcement. Following the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, MSHA initiated its impact inspection program targeting mines that merit increased attention and enforcement due to poor compliance records. From April 2010 through May 2012, MSHA conducted 452 impact inspections at mines, resulting in 8,106 citations, 811 orders and 32 safeguards for a total of 8,949 issuances.

But Main says compliance has improved at mines receiving impact inspections. Since September 2010, he says violations per inspection hour are down 13 percent, S&S violation rates are down 21 percent, 104(d) orders are down 43 percent and the total lost-time injury rate is down 13 percent.

Main also discussed MSHA’s Pattern of Violations program, in which mines are screened to determine if they have met the potential POV criteria. If mines do, they are required to make compliance improvements to avoid POV closure orders when S&S violations are found.

MSHA has strengthened the criteria for POV and, since November 2010, has placed two mines on a POV, marking the first time in MSHA’s history that mines have successfully been subject to a POV closure order.

In 2011, eight mines were issued potential POV notices, down 17 from 2010. A review of 14 mines that received potential POV notices in 2010 indicated the total violation rate is down 23 percent, the S&S violation rate is down 42 percent, the rate of 104(d) withdrawal orders is down 64 percent and the lost-time injury rate down is 44 percent.

“Improving mine safety and instilling a culture of prevention in the industry is of great importance to President Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and me,” Main says. “The secretary has articulated a forward-looking vision of ensuring good jobs for every worker in the United States, which includes safe and healthy workplaces – particularly in high-risk industries – and a voice in the workplace for all workers.”

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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