Gary Visscher, Esq.
Commission Holds No MSHA Jurisdiction of Off-Site Facility or Equipment
In a decision handed down on April 5, 2022, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission substantially limited MSHA’s jurisdiction over off-site equipment maintenance and storage facilities, as well as over mining equipment and maintenance work being done on that equipment which at the time of the inspection is not located on (or area appurtenant to) a mine. Read the Commission's decision here.
KC Transport, Inc. involved citations issued by an MSHA inspector against a trucking company which operated as an independent contractor to nearby coal mines as well as other businesses. The trucking company maintained a parking area, which was also used for maintenance work, which was located near several of the mines, but not on mine property.
MSHA did not regularly inspect KC Transport’s parking/maintenance facility, though its trucks were inspected when they were present on mine property or mine haul roads during an MSHA inspection. However, in this case, an MSHA inspector traveled to the KC Transport parking/maintenance facility in order to terminate citations that had been issued on two haul trucks during a previous inspection of the mine. While the inspector was at the KC Transport facility, he observed work being done on two other haul trucks. The trucks were not blocked against motion while being raised for repair. The inspector then issued two new citations to KC Transport.
Both the trucking company and the Secretary of Labor moved for summary judgment. (KC Transport agreed that if MSHA had jurisdiction to issue the citations, there was no issue that the standard was violated.) The ALJ who heard the case found that MSHA had jurisdiction, though on grounds different than what had been argued by the Secretary.
The Review Commission split 2 to 1, with Chairman Traynor dissenting. The Commission majority held that “an independent repair, maintenance, or parking facility not located on or appurtenant to a mine site and not engaged in any extraction, milling, preparation, or other [mining] activities … [nor] tools, equipment, and the like not on a mine site or any appurtenant thereto and not engaged in in any extraction, milling, preparation or other [mining] activities are not mines within the scope of subsection 3(h) of the Mine Act.”
In other words, neither KC Transport’s facility, nor the trucks or other equipment parked or stored there, were within MSHA’s jurisdiction.
The Commission decision followed the Court of Appeals 2017 decision in Maxxim Rebuild Co. LLC v. FMSHRC, 848 F.3d 737 (6th Cir. 2017). In that case, the Court of Appeals held that MSHA’s jurisdiction did not extend to an off-site maintenance facility which serviced mining equipment. The Court of Appeals said that MSHA’s theory that its jurisdiction extended to a facility on the basis that mining equipment was stored or serviced there “would create ‘no stopping point.’” Rejecting that argument, the Court of Appeals held that “the power of the Mine Safety and Health Administration extends only to such facilities and equipment if they are in or adjacent to – in essence part of – a working mine.”
The Commission majority noted that it was not bound to follow the Court’s holding and approach in Maxxim, because the KC Transport case arose in the 4th Circuit. The Commission also noted that its holding in this case departs from previous Commission decisions. However, the Commission found that the Sixth Circuit’s approach “is consistent with the history, language, statutory framework, legislative intent, and two well-considered federal circuit court of appeals decisions.”