Michael Peelish, Esq.
Incident Report per Part 50.20(a) – How Much is Enough?
When completing an incident report, think of it this way: How much information would someone reading this report need to ensure this incident or something like it did not happen again? That should be the standard. Well, that is the standard under Part 50.11(b)(8) which states, “a description of steps taken to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.”
In the recent past, I have seen MSHA issue citations under Part 50.11(b)(8) and Part 50.20(a) for mine operators failing to include sufficient detail in reportable incident reports. MSHA wants more information about the cause of the accident and what could have prevented it. However, some mine operators are hesitant to go to deep into detail because they are uncertain where it leads and that is always a risk when MSHA reviews injury reports. Look at it this way, every industry requires incident reports so MSHA is no different.
Also, I can already hear the next response from the mine operators to my comments; “I know what happen, the knucklehead placed his/her hand where it should not have been” or “the knucklehead was not using the blade knife correctly by cutting towards his/her leg when the knife slipped” or “the knucklehead was not watching where s/he was going when s/he tripped.”
That won’t do it. Defining the root cause of any near miss or first aid or reportable incident is required by good safety management practice regardless of Part 50. To do so requires some initial effort and then follow-up, in other words some work. Don’t brush-off this important aspect of safety and health management. Even if a mine operator thinks they know the root cause right off the bat, go through the process to ensure all the bases are touched and to implement procedures to share with others so a repeat does not occur.
A lot of times mine operators simply don’t want to hear what I call “unwanted facts” because it may take some effort and/or financial resources and/or time to make it right. As a former head of safety for a large mining company, I would rather know if an employee lacked knowledge of lockout/tagout and why, or lacked training in proper tool use and why, or tripped on material because of poor housekeeping practices and why. There is never a simple answer to any incident, so you need to know how to look for it, face “unwanted facts”, and do what is right to prevent it from happening again. In the spirit of the upcoming football season, mine operators must go deep, and complete the play by following up.
Our firm reviews and drafts safety and health policies and programs, conducts on-site safety and health audits, and conducts Part 46 new miner and annual refresher training. My previous education and experience includes a degree in engineering of mines, working in coal mines, managing a corporate safety and health department for 19 years with over 30 years total mining experience.