New safety standard requires coal mine operators to find, fix safety hazards

bestep@herald-leader.comAugust 6, 2012 

A new safety standard that took effect Monday is aimed at better protecting underground miners from the types of conditions that contributed to a deadly blast at a West Virginia mine in April 2010, according to federal regulators.

Mine operators are required to look for and correct hazardous conditions in mines during pre-shift and on-shift examinations, and at other times. The new rule requires them to also look for violations of nine specific health and safety standards, according to a news release from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The standards relate to ventilation, roof support, combustible materials and several other areas.

The rule requires operators to document what they did to correct deficiencies, and to review citations and orders related to pre-shift and other examinations with mine inspectors.

MSHA came up with the standards by analyzing five years of accident reports and enforcement data for underground coal mines.

The review showed that inspectors found the same types of violations each year, and that they represented some of the biggest risks to miners.

"These repeated violations expose miners to unnecessary safety and health risks that should be found and corrected by mine operators," MSHA chief Joe Main said in a news release.

The new rule will increase the identification and correction of hazards, Main said.

MSHA has stepped up efforts to identify problem mines since the April 2010 blast that killed 29 miners the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, which was operated at the time by Massey Energy.

MSHA issued 158,000 violations to mining and quarrying operations in 2011. Underground coal mines made up just 4 percent of all mines, but accounted for 77,000 of the violations, MSHA said.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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