Six months ago, 29 men died in the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years. Since then, another 13 miners have died, despite a crackdown by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). What’s going on?
An article in The Washington Post points out that the 13 fatalities in the 6 months since the Upper Big Branch disaster is about the same rate of deaths as in the past 15 years.
After the Upper Big Branch explosion, MSHA increased by 20% its use of orders that require mines to close temporarily.
The agency also instituted “impact inspections,” for mines chosen because of their record of poor safety and health.
However, federal regulators still have trouble using their power to temporarily shut down mines that have a pattern of violations. That provision hasn’t been used successfully in 32 years.
Part of the problem may be the stalled appeals process for contesting MSHA fines. Companies can delay paying fines for years because the backlog of cases has grown so large.
And until the appeals process reaches its end, MSHA can’t show that previous violations constitute a pattern of violations.
MSHA recently announced new criteria that could simplify the appeals process.
“Anytime there’s a failure to connect the violation to the penalty … the enforcement effort doesn’t have the curative effect that you need to have,” Davitt McAteer, head of MSHA under President Clinton told The Post.
What do you think needs to happen for the rate of mine worker deaths to diminish? Let us know in the Comments Box below.