Impact inspections conducted by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during the month of April 2023 revealed 914 violations, including 257 designated as “significant and substantial.”
A significant and substantial, or S&S, violation is “one reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness,” according to MSHA.
Impact inspections are done at mines that have a poor compliance history with 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.
MSHA investigators also found 18 unwarrantable failures at the mines inspected in April 2023. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.
April’s impact inspections were conducted at mines in Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Mine targeted for high non-fatal days lost rate, serious incident
MSHA offered an example of what an impact inspection can reveal, using its inspection of a large surface lime plant and quarry near Woodville, Ohio.
The agency targeted the mine for an impact inspection after receiving three hazard complaints as well as finding that it had a 2022 non-fatal days lost accident rate that was almost three times higher than the national average for this type of mine.
This mine also recorded a serious incident on April 11, 2023, when a miner was injured after a poorly maintained metal guard fell on them. The mine also had an increased number of regular citations and S&S citations.
The impact inspection resulted in 26 citations, including 14 S&S violations. Two of these violations were considered of great concern, including failure to:
- barricade a hazardous area that exposed workers to serious and potentially fatal injuries similar to those suffered by the miner in the April 11 incident, and
- construct and maintain guarding, exposing workers to serious injuries.
The agency had cited a lack of proper guarding as a factor in its April 11 injury investigation.