MSHA moves into 3rd phase of mining safety program - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

MSHA moves into 3rd phase of mining safety program

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The federal mining safety group charged with the protecting the health and safety of U.S. miners has launched the third phase of a program aimed at preventing mining fatalities.

"Rules to Live By: III," focuses on 14 safety standards chosen because they are commonly cited as contributing to mine accidents. The program has been divided into three sections, with the first two focusing on fatality prevention that looked at 24 frequently cited standards and preventing catastrophic accidents.

"The goal of this phase of 'Rules to Live By' is to reduce numbers of deaths and injuries from the targeted standards by having mine operators identify and correct all hazardous conditions, direct MSHA enforcement toward confirming that violations related to these conditions are not present at mines and ensure miners are better trained to recognize and avoid these particular hazards," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

According to the MSHA announcement, 609 miners lost their lives in workplace environments from 2001 to 2010. Violations associated with eight coal standards contributed to 75 deaths in the same period.

"This is designed as a prevention program," Main said on a conference call Tuesday. "This is designed as a program that really brings in the entire mining community to focus attention on the things that are causing mining deaths."

Reducing mine deaths in the past year, Main said, has been the result of "a lot of hard work."

"In 2011, mining deaths fell to the second lowest annual total on record --a testament to the commitment of miners, mine operators, miners' representatives, labor and industry organizations, state agencies and grantees, members of the mining community and MSHA," Main said. "While the mining community achieved near-record low numbers of mining deaths in the United States and has seen a significant decline in fatal mining accidents during the past 10 years, too many miners still lose their lives in preventable accidents. The loss of even one miner causes devastation and pain to the victim's family, friends and co-workers."

The targeted standards involving coal include on-shift examinations, inspection and maintenance of loading and haulage equipment, performing work from a raised position and reports of daily inspection of surface coal mines.

Beginning April 1, Main said, MSHA will focus more attention on the targeted standards, with increased scrutiny for related violations, and instructions to inspectors to pay more attention to those standards.

"Compliance with safety and health standards is the responsibility of mine operators, with the assistance of miners," Main said. "Ultimately, all of us must focus on why these accidents happen and how to prevent them."

MSHA inspectors will also receive online training to increase the consistency of enforcement across the federal agency. Training will also be available to the public and mining industry on MSHA's website."

A list of the coal priority standards, along with citing statistics are available here: http://www.msha.gov/focuson/RulestoLiveByIII/CoalStandards.asp The webpage for the general Rules to Live By program is available here: http://www.msha.gov/focuson/rulestoliveby.asp

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