ARLINGTON, Va. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 106 citations, 13 orders and one safeguard during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and two metal/nonmetal mines last month.
The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. These matters include high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation; and respirable dust.
As an example from last month, MSHA conducted an impact inspection April 17 at Fork Creek No. 1 Mine, Coal River Mining, LLC in Lincoln County, W.Va., covering extensive areas of the mine and issuing four closure orders and 10 citations.
The mine was cited for inadequate examination of one of the conveyer belts where hazardous conditions existed – inspectors found that top-structure rollers were not immediately removed or repaired on the belt during the examination. Although maintenance shift records showed that two sections of the top structure of the belt needed replacement, the hazardous conditions were not recorded in the official examination book. Inspectors also found a broken inner support bracket, the canister roller turned on the structure frame, and a groove worn into the frame that was hot to the touch.
Inspectors found 31 locations where belt strings (cords) intertwined with the belt roller and hanger. This creates a potential fire and smoke inhalation hazard.
Among other violations cited, inspectors found that the mine operator failed to follow the MSHA-approved methane/dust control plan for the roof bolter. Without proper ventilation to dilute the air and carry away dust and harmful gases, miners are exposed to respiratory hazards that increase their risk of developing black lung, silicosis and other respiratory diseases. Power cables on a shuttle car operating in a wet area of the mine were not properly maintained and posed an electrocution hazard. The cable insulation was damaged and not repaired to prevent moisture from entering the conductor.
This was the second impact inspection at Fork Creek No. 1. In February, the mine was issued 16 ventilation violations, 13 of which were closure orders for the operator’s unwarrantable failure to comply with health and safety standards, including serious violations of its ventilation plan.
“This latest inspection is an example of a mine that still doesn’t get it,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “The violations that were issued show the troublesome behavior that takes place at some mines when MSHA inspectors are not expected to show up.”
Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 602 impact inspections and issued 10,297 citations, 961 orders and 44 safeguards.