Whitesburg KY

Surface mines face blitz

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is taking a hard look at surface operations in the latest update of its “Rules To Live By” program that focuses attention on selected standards, violations of which contributed to a significant number of fatal accidents during the past decade, agency chief Joe Main announced Tuesday.

The focus on surface mines may not be surprising in the metal and nonmetal mining industry, but it represents a significant refocusing of attention in the coal sector.

The program entails “enhanced enforcement efforts, increased scrutiny for related violations, and instructions to inspectors to more carefully evaluate gravity and negligence…” the agency said in a news “ release. The current revision of the program represents its third version since MSHA first announced it in February 2010.

Coal mine inspectors will now concentrate extra attention on the following eight standards, only one of them applicable underground:

• §75.362(a)(1) On-shift examination (underground mines only)

• §77.404(a) Machinery and equipment; operation and maintenance

• §77.405(b) Performing work from a raised position; safeguards

• § 77.1000 Highwalls, pits and spoil banks; plans

• §77.1605(b) Loading and haulage equipment ; installations

• §77.1606(a) Loading and haulage equipment; inspection and maintenance

• §77.1607(b) Loading and haulage equipment ; operation

• §77.1713(a) Daily inspection of surface coal mine; certified person; reports of inspection

MSHA will also be looking a bit harder at surface mines” in its “impact inspection” program, Main warned in a news conference following the announcement. That inspection program typically sends several inspectors to selected mines in order to obtain a typical snapshot of day-to-day conditions. Often, mine telephones are seized to prevent advance word of the inspectors’ presence from being transmitted to work areas.

Of last year’s 37 mining deaths, 23 occurred were at surface mines and facilities.

Violations of the latest target standards were associated with 75 coal mine deaths and 50 metal/nonmetal mine deaths from 2001 through 2010, the agency said. Total mining fatalities in the same period numbered 609, according to MSHA.

The original phase of the program focused on 11 coal mine standards, five applicable on the surface. The second phase of “Rules to Live By,” announced in November 2011, focused on nine specific underground coal mine standards, violations of which could contribute to “catastrophic” mine accidents.

This report appears courtesy of the publication Mine Safety and Health News, www.Minesafety.com.

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