Federal officials found 205 violations at 16 mines in 12 states during March 2023 safety and health impact inspections. Fifty-two of the violations were deemed “significant and substantial.”
Impact inspections are done at mines that have a poor compliance history with federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements or previous accidents, injuries and illnesses.
MSHA first began impact inspections in April 2010 after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia killed 29 miners.
The March 2023 impact inspections were conducted at mines in Alabama, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia.
In the first three months of 2023, MSHA inspections identified 579 violations, including 165 significant and substantial and 13 unwarrantable failure findings. A significant and substantial violation is one that is reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness.
Multiple violations found at mine with silica overexposures
A Department of Labor news release offered an example of what one impact inspection found at an underground coal mine in Harlan County, Kentucky.
MSHA conducted the inspection on March 21 at INMET Mining’s D-21 Mine, where the mine operator has a history of silica overexposures.
Inspectors issued 20 citations at the mine for violations of various safety and health standards, including 11 significant and substantial findings. MSHA found the operator failed to follow requirements for mine ventilation and roof-control plans and didn’t provide miners with a safe and healthy workplace.
Specifically, inspectors found:
- inoperable and missing water sprays
- cutting bits on continuous mining machines not maintained properly
- a miner working in visible coal dust
- a filter housing saturated with white dust and an improper dust collector hose on a roof bolting machine, and
- an insufficient quantity of air behind the curtain at the working face during the mining process.
Ensuring proper ventilation as required by federally approved ventilation plans, as well as functioning water sprays and dust control equipment significantly reduce potential explosion and respirable dust hazards, according to MSHA.
MSHA also cited the mine operator for:
- not posting a visible warning for an unsupported crosscut at the end point of where the roof was supported
- inadequately supporting the mine roof in a travel way
- not replacing damaged roof support posts, and
- allowing a crack in the mine’s roof to remain unsupported.
An unsupported roof can cause collapses, leading to a fatality or serious injury to miners. By not posting a visible warning for an unsupported crosscut, the operator put miners in danger of walking inadvertently into an unsupported area that could collapse.