By Terrance V. Newhouse
Dramatic mine injuries early in 2006 have ended in passage of the 1st significant modification to federal mine protection legislations given that 1977. The Mine development and New Emergency reaction Act calls for each one mine to have an emergency plan, elevated offers of oxygen, and more advantageous rescue groups. consequences for violations have additionally been elevated. even though the invoice had large help in Congress, a few participants have characterized it as just a 'first step', to be by means of extra measures that will contain a decrease greatest restrict on airborne dirt and dust concentrations, underground refuges, communications and monitoring units, and larger emphasis on enforcement of criteria. On January 2, 2006, the state was once reminded of the risks of underground mining, as 12 miners died in an explosion and fireplace within the Sago mine in West Virginia. for this reason, the Mine protection and future health management (MSHA) issued new rules; Congress has handed the 1st significant revision of the mine security legislation seeing that 1977 and has taken extra money owed into account; and, country legislatures in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois have tightened their very own legislation. those responses have emphasized components proposal to have performed a component within the Sago tragedy, together with emergency oxygen provides, monitoring and verbal exchange platforms, and deployment of rescue groups. There have additionally been proposals to extend the consequences for violations of protection criteria.
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Several ALJs told us that they review the evidence provided by MSHA but the process for determining the final penalty amount relies greatly on their experience and expertise. In general, while the reasons supporting a reduction from MSHA’s proposed penalty are clearly explained in ALJ decisions, the rationale for the final penalty amount is not always well documented.  26 GAO CONCLUSIONS The risky conditions in underground coal mines were brought to the nation’s attention early in 2006, and the sad consequences have become a reality for many Americans.
A Each subelement of gravity is an exclusive category. b Percentage does not add to 100 due to a small amount of missing data. c We did not calculate the average proposed penalty for the number of miners, because most (75 percent) of the violations involved only one miner. Source: GAO analysis of data MSHA penalty and violation data. MSHA recently changed its regulations governing civil penalty assessments to update them and increase proposed penalty amounts, and to implement the new civil penalty requirement of the MINER Act.
MSHA and NIOSH have complementary roles, particularly in developing and approving technologies to help improve mine safety, and face similar challenges such as high rates of retirements. Yet, without having a more structured method of coordination, their shared knowledge base and research cannot be used to effectively speed the implementation of new safety technology in mines. Finally, given the trends over the past 10 years for penalties contested by mine operators, the higher proposed penalties under MSHA’s new penalty structure will likely lead more operators to appeal.