WASHINGTON (CN) – Operators of coal mines would have to correct hazardous conditions and violations of mandatory health and safety standards on a weekly basis under new rules proposed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Mine operators are already required to perform routine safety examinations before and during shifts and record and mark any hazardous conditions they discover, but there is not a universal deadline for correcting adverse conditions that discovered.
In addition, the new rules would require mine operators to review with their mine safety examiners all citations and orders issued by the agency on a quarterly basis and to make sure their mines are in compliance with those citations and orders.
Following a recent series of mining disasters around the world, the agency conducted a review of every order and citation issued in the last five years in the U.S. and found that mines repeatedly discovered and noted hazardous conditions and were often cited by regulatory agencies for violations, but did little to fix the conditions reported.
Noting that “conditions in underground coal mines change rapidly roof that appears adequately supported can quickly deteriorate and fall; stoppings can crush out and short-circuit air currents; conveyor belts can become misaligned or belt roller bearings can fail, resulting in an ignition source; and methane can accumulate in areas where it may not have been detected,” the agency emphasizes that while small violations may not lead to catastrophe, the accumulation of small violations may, when added together, result in disaster.
Under current regulations, mine operators are required to report hazardous conditions but are not required to note what corrective actions, if any, were taken.
A methane gas explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine near Montcoal, W.Va. killed 29 people in April. According to the agency, the mine, owned my Massey Energy, was cited 515 times for hazardous conditions. including 54 orders to evacuate the mine because of immediate threats to the health and safety of miners.
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