U.S. Safety Agency Launches Crackdown on Mine Operators

February 21, 2010

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has set a March 15 deadline to start cracking down on the most common violations cited during fatal accidents.

Inspectors also will look specifically to make operators obey 24 separate regulations as part of part of the agency’s “Rules to Live By” campaign, MSHA director Joe Main said recently in Charleston, West Va.

Violations of the 24 rules were involved in about half of 589 mining deaths from 2000 through 2008. The campaign is aimed at reducing deaths among the estimated 423,000 people who work at almost 15,000 mines and quarries across the nation.

Mining fatalities declined to 34 last year, from 53 in 2008, but Main wants to eliminate them altogether.

“If we’re going to eliminate mining deaths, we’ve got to go the extra mile and this program that we’re laying out gets us a step closer to that extra mile,” he said. “The grief that’s left behind from these accidents is just totally immeasurable.”

Until mid-March, the campaign will focus on educating miners, mine operators and trainers in hopes of raising safety consciousness among everyone who could be endangered, Main said. Inspectors also will discuss safety with miners during inspections.

Once MSHA starts cracking down on violators, inspectors also will look for reasons to increase fines, Main said.

Data shows the most common causes of deadly accidents include falls, roof and wall collapses, heavy equipment mishaps and poor maintenance, MSHA says. The agency found West Virginia was the deadliest mining state during that period with 94 fatalities, followed by Kentucky with 78.

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