The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has proposed a rule that officials say will close loopholes that have allowed the most egregious coal mine operators to avoid the most severe punishment.
The new "pattern of violations" procedures will be available in the Federal Register for public comment from Wednesday to April 4. The proposal eliminates the intermediate "potential pattern of violations" warning letter that repeat safety violators now receive. It also eliminates the requirement that citations used to determine a pattern of violations be final; currently, citations and orders that the company has appealed are not counted toward a pattern.
Removing those "loopholes" brings the regulations closer to what Congress intended when it passed the Mine Act of 1977, MSHA chief Joseph A. Main said Monday. He said he hoped that eliminating the warning letters would "encourage operators to be more proactive in fixing those problems, examine their own safety records, know what penalties will be, know what the criteria is."
Compliance data would be made available in MSHA databases so companies don't need a warning letter to know they're on a pattern of violations, Main said.
In November, there was a backlog of 88,000 contested violations, and contested violations were averaging nearly 18 months to become final.
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