MSHA issues first POV notice since 2014

By |  December 7, 2022

Logo: MSHA

The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) issued a pattern of violations (POV) notice to a mine operator, marking the first time in eight years that the agency delivered a POV notice for persistent serious health and safety violations.

MSHA issued the POV notice to Morton Salt, whose Weeks Island Mine & Mill was the target of the action. The operation is located in New Iberia, Louisiana

According to MSHA, the POV screening process examines all of the nation’s mines and identifies ones with a high number of significant and substantial violations and other safety and health compliance problems. An S&S violation is one that is reasonably likely to result in a serious injury or illness, according to the agency.

Under the Mine Act, MSHA identifies mines exhibiting a pattern of S&S violations and is authorized to issue a POV notice – one of the agency’s toughest enforcement actions – to mine operators who are chronic violators and demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners.

During a 12-month review period – from Sept. 1, 2021, through Aug. 31, 2022 – MSHA cited 82 S&S violations at Weeks Island Mine and Mill. Of those, 32 were issued for the operator’s high negligence or reckless disregard. The S&S rate per 100 inspection hours was 11.2, while the national average for underground metal/nonmetal mines was 3.2.

In its review, MSHA identified the existence of a pattern of S&S violations related to roof and rib hazards at the mine.

If a mine receives notice of a POV and subsequently commits additional S&S violations, federal law allows MSHA to withdraw miners from the affected area except those necessary to correct the violation. An operator can be removed from Section 104(e) sanctions if no S&S violations are found within 90 days of the POV notice’s issuance. Following that, a POV designation can be terminated after an inspection of the entire mine results in no S&S violations.

“Congress put the pattern of violations authority in the Mine Act for a reason,” says Christopher Williamson, assistant secretary at MSHA. “Our action shows that we will use that authority and other tough enforcement measures to protect the safety and health of our nation’s miners. The Mine Act is also clear that mine operators have the ultimate responsibility to keep miners safe and healthy.

MSHA says operators can monitor their performance under the screening criteria using the agency’s online tools. From there, they can take action to improve compliance and protect miners.

MSHA offers two online calculators to help mine operators monitor compliance, including the POV Calculator, which allows mine operators to monitor performance under the POV screening criteria. The tool alerts mine operators that corrective actions are needed.

The S&S Calculator, meanwhile, enables mine operators to monitor their S&S violations.

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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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