• Michael Peelish, Esq.

MSHA Believes Miners are Making “Bad Decisions”

During its June 9, 2021 stakeholder meeting, MSHA was at a loss to explain the increase of fatal injuries (15 so far this year versus 29 in 2020) that have occurred in 2021. MSHA went through its analysis of age, experience at the task and the mine, size of operator, etc., and made several noteworthy points. All size operators are affected, most miners have less than four years of experience at the task and the mine, and most miners are under 40 years of age. Also, powered haulage/conveyor accidents are on the rise. MSHA was somewhat humble during this stakeholder call and sought support from the industry on addressing the underlying causes of these fatalities. One of MSHA’s conclusions is that miners are making “bad decisions”. Said another way, miners are not performing adequate hazard assessments before beginning work on a task.

If MSHA wants assistance from the industry, then maybe MSHA should change its approach to “training and teaching” instead of irrelevant discretionary enforcement. My point is this: MSHA will cite an operator for a guard that has been accepted for 10 years and suddenly it is no longer acceptable. Sure, MSHA may issue a low negligence and non-S&S, but why? Why not spend more time talking to mine operators and miners about hazard assessments, about performing better workplace examinations, about safe operating procedures? MSHA has a wealth of knowledge, but their inspectors hide behind the mantra “if I see it, I must cite it.” Well, that is not true if MSHA uses its discretion in a better way. If MSHA really wants to get a handle on fatal injuries in mining, then it must do more work observations, more explaining to miners why it is important to conduct workplace hazard assessments, and less writing.

MSHA always says if you see something, then say something. Well, the industry folks are saying something, I just hope MSHA will listen.

Based on the safety background and experience of the firm’s members, part of the firm’s practice is conducting safety and health assessments at MSHA and OSHA facilities.

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