Vol. 20, No. 18

  • Accidents:
    • Three burned in surface explosion at Peabody mine (538)
    • Slip from truck ladder causes head injury at Martin Marietta quarry (539)
    • Plant workers sprayed with caustic liquid at Alcoa plant (539)
    • Graymont underground limestone mine emptied after roof fall (540)
    • Still recovering from huge collapse, Bingham Canyon Mine reports lesser slide (540)
    • Silver miner released after 1½ hour entrapment at Galena Mine (541)
    • Miners Escape injury in Veris Gold Mine roof fall (541)
    • New Underground coal mine in Pennsylvania strikes water (542)
    • MSHA issues elevator entrapment alert (542)
    • MSHA Issues roof fall warning (543)
  • Budget: Agencies on shut-downs with minimal emergency staffing (543)
  • Citations: Operator not prejudiced by Secretary’s request to amend complaint (544)
  • Civil Penalties: Secretary established adequate cause in filing penalty proposal 30 days late (545)
  • Criminal Proceedings: Gary May asks for immediate release citing conflicts-of-interest with his attorney (545)
  • Discovery: Operator not entitled to MSHA’s special assessment form (547)
  • Discrimination: Employer’s subpoena request denied in discrimination case (548)
  • Fatalities:
    • MSHA issues alert highlighting three fatalities in week (548)
    • Haul truck makes fatal plunge over highwall at Con-Agg’s Huntsville Quarry (549)
    • Limestone quarry worker fatally trapped in hopper after trying to free material (550)
    • Miner killed in overturn of former military truck used at Pennsylvania slate quarry (550)
    • Failing brakes and poor communication led to death in Questa Mine derailment incident (551)
    • Error In use of air bag for re-railing proved fatal at Consol’s Loveridge #22 (553)
  • Grants:
    • Brookwood-Sago grants at least partly evade shutdown tripwire (555)
    • Alpha Foundation awards $10 million for mine safety and health research (558)
  • Inspections: Small mines with scofflaw histories top August impact inspection list (559)
  • Miners’ Representatives: Miner’s rep manual available on MSHA website (561)
  • Mine Rescue:
    • Comments sought on advanced mine rescue training guides (562)
    • Cliffs’ Pinnacle Blue Team Leads coal mine rescue winners (562)
  • Settlements: Secretary, engineering firm settle single violation from Crandall Canyon disaster (563)
  • Unwarrantable Failure: Failing to note debris over 5-week period was an unwarrantable failure (564)
  • Review Commission Orders and ALJ Decisions (566)

What Happens in a Government Shutdown?

MSHA and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission on Friday released contingency plans in case Congress fails to adopt a measure before next Tuesday, Oct. 1, to keep the federal government operating.

MSHA would lay off all but 966 of its 2,355 employees during a shutdown, according to a memorandum signed Sept. 25 by Solicitor of Labor Patricia M. Smith.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main in an MSHA-specific planning document identified certain “key functions” slated to continue even in the absence of appropriations.

“In our opinion, these excepted functions meet the Department of Justice test that there be a reasonable likelihood that safety of life and property would be compromised if the functions are not performed,” Main stated.The excepted MSHA activities “directly involve protecting against imminent threats to human life in the Nation’s mines, and which are necessary for the protection of government property,” he wrote.
“During a lapse in funding, MSHA would cease all other continuing, regular functions,” stated Main.

MSHA would retain 768 employees for “[i]nspections of targeted mines and specific hazards; lnvestigations of accidents and miners’ complaints; and sample analysis,” Main stated.

Inspections would consist of “targeted inspections at mines which have been prioritized based on the mine’s history of the hazards that put miners’ lives at risk.

“Hazard-specific inspections will also be conducted across the Nation to address those conditions and practices which have been recent key causes of death and serious injury,” Main stated. “Additionally, investigations of accidents and miners’ safety complaints and select sample analysis will continue because they represent potentially serious and imminent safety problems.”

Another 40 MSHA employees would stay on the job to perform mine plan evaluations and approvals.

Three more would be kept on the job to maintain preparedness for mine emergencies. “If unforeseen emergencies, such as a mine disaster occurred, additional employees would be identified to work for the duration of the emergency,” Main reported.

Three agency employees would stay on the job to provide information technology support. MSHA also planned to keep 12 persons on the job to provide building security, six at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.Va., and six at the Approval and Certification Center in Triadelphia, W.Va.

A total of 138 managers would be retained on the job, including 87 field office supervisors and 51 member of senior management. One support staff person would also stay on the job.

“This direction will ensure that the excepted activities being performed are in targeted mines and address targeted issues,” Main stated. These individuals would also be responsible for various support activities. “I anticipate the possibility of job rotation in some instances,” Main also stated.

Main presumably would remain on the job, as a Presidential appointee.

The Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor, providing legal services to MSHA among other Labor agencies, would send home all but 71 of its 728 employees nationwide, Smith stated.

In case of a shutdown FMSHRC would furlough 73 of 75 civil service employees, retaining a single administrative law judge and one hearing office employee under a plan made public today. In addition, the five Commissioners would all remain on the job because they are Presidential appointees.

FMSHRC during a suspension of government operations will adjudicate only “disputes that arise from a mine emergency and are necessary to ensure continued public health and safety.”

The Commission will continue to review new filings in order to identify emergency and time-sensitive items. In addition, decisions will continue on whether to grant or deny Petitions for Discretionary Review.

Half a day’s work was expected to be consumed by any shutdown process at FMSHRC.

The agencies’ plans represented updates of prior planning documents that were developed for prior shutdowns and shutdown threats.

Vol. 20, No. 17

  • Accidents:
    • Massive cylinder falls on mechanic’s leg at Arch subsidiary mine (496)
    • Supervisor injured by scoop at Consol’s Baily Mine (496)
    • Fire from welding sparks damages Shelly Materlimestone plant (497)
    • Cumberland mine resumes production after geologic problem (497)
    • Cargill’s Cleveland salt mine idled by safety concerns (498)
  • Combustible Materials: Penalties increased by ALJ where mine has history of §75.400 violations (498)
  • Criminal Proceedings: Judge goes above sentencing guidelines in Massey executive case (499)
  • Discrimination:
    • Armstrong’s ‘egregious’ lawsuit against miner warrants $70,000 fine, ALJ rules (500)
    • ALJ should have allowed evidence of document forgery in miner’s case (501)
  • Dust Standards: Final dust-sampling rule queues up for review at OMB (502)
  • Equipment Safety:
    • New MSHA- approved leaky feeder cable proves safer in mine fire (504)
    • Warning issued about calibrating Terex’s Genie articulating boom (504)
  • Fatalities:
    • WWII Veteran drowned while mowing around Maple Creek impoundment (504)
    • Practices in moving power shovels faulted after Black Thunder fatality (505)
    • Mechanic at Allied Custom Gypsum killed by freeing jammed energized conveyor, MSHA concludes (506)
    • No violations, but Affinity Mine gets proximity devices after fatal scoop accident (508)
    • Unknown person tampered with safety switch before hoist fatality at Metinvest’s Affinity Mine (510)
  • Inspections:
    • Court finds operator in contempt, issues arrest warrant after refusing to allow inspections (513)
    • July impact visits find “unwarrantable” lapses by global and local operators (514)
  • Investigations: MSHA can demand miners’ phone numbers in 110(c) investigation (517)
  • Mine Plans: 7th Circuit agrees with Commission on MSHA approval of ventilation plans (518)
  • Part 50 Reporting: Non-fatal heart attack does not require 15 minute MSHA notification (519)
  • Private Lawsuits: W.Va. Supreme Court rules against former Massey shareholders (520)
  • Settlements: ALJ rejects settlement motion where CLR offered no supporting documentation (521)
  • Training:
    • Belmont College in Ohio offering college credit mining courses (521)
    • Annual safety trainers’ conference scheduled for Oct. 15-17 (522)
  • Review Commission Orders and ALJ Decisions (523)

Interfering With Inspection Will Cost Big Bucks

A mine operator has learned the hard way that interfering with a mine inspection, and failing to abate an order will cost you some money.

ALJ Margaret Miller increased the fine of Veris Gold, operator of the Jerritt Canyon gold mine and mill, from MSHA’s proposed fine of $1,112 to $25,000 where she found that the safety manager intimidated an MSHA inspector, used abusive language, and continued to follow the MSHA inspector around the premises after being issued a withdrawal order for the abusive behavior.

MSHA was at the mine because of a hazard complaint made by a miner, which the safety director, Danny Lowe, said “was bullshit.” He followed the MSHA inspector, used abusive language through-out the inspection, and would not allow MSHA to view at least some records, arguing that MSHA did not have a right to do so. Lowe also called the local sheriff to have the inspector escorted off of mine property.

This is not the first time Lowe called law enforcement on MSHA. When he was safety director for Essroc, he called the local police and had an inspector escorted off of mine property when the inspector, who Lowe knew, had forgotten his AR card.

The judge said while mine operators have a right to have a company representative accompany the MSHA inspector, there is no right to harass and impede an investigation. The mine operator had other safety department representatives available, and in fact, another employee did accompany the inspector through most of the inspection. Miller said, “In keeping Lowe from participating, MSHA was no infringing on any right the mine had to allow a representative to accompany an inspector.”

The abatement time, which was set for five minutes and continued through to the inspection the next day, was reasonable.

Miller also noted that even if Lowe believed that he was allowed to accompany the inspector after being issued a withdrawal order to stay away from the inspection, Lowe was required first to abate the citation by staying away, “and then bring up the issue in the proper course. He did not do so and intentionally continued to ignore the instructions of the inspector.”

More details, and the full text of the decision, will be in the next issue of Mine Safety and Health News.