MSHA Credits Reforms for Limiting “Chronic Violations”
In a recent review conducted by MSHA, only one of the 13,600 mines in the United States warranted further scrutiny for issuance of a “pattern of violations” (POV) notice, the agency stated in a press release. A POV notice is reserved for mines that pose the greatest risk to workers’ safety and health through repeated “significant and substantial” violations. MSHA conducts periodic “screenings” to identify mines that might warrant a POV notice. The number of mines flagged via this process fell from 53 in 2010 to 1 in 2015, according to the agency. MSHA attributes this steep decline to reforms enacted in recent years that give the agency greater latitude in issuing POV notices. “The POV reforms sent a message that chronic violator behavior would no longer be tolerated,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for MSHA. “That message translated into a dramatic reduction in the number of mines with chronic violation records. We have also seen significant improvements in violation and injury rates at mines served with a POV notice.” Upon further review, MSHA found that the single mine operation identified in its 2015 screening did not warrant a POV notice. MSHA has issued seven POV notices in its history, all in the last four years. The authority to issue POV notices was granted to MSHA by the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. However, MSHA did not place a single mine on POV status until 2011—33 years after the law went into effect. Six days prior to its press release on the success of the POV reforms, MSHA published an open letter from Main to the mining community announcing additional inspections in the metal and non-metal mine industry. On Aug. 3, three miners died in three separate accidents at metal and non-metal mines. “I ask that every metal and non-metal operator reexamine their mines to assure that they are taking corrective actions to adequately protect miners,” Main states in the letter. “Reversing this unwanted trend will take the efforts of everyone in the mining community.” Read more in MSHA’s press release.