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MSHA details problems with mine safety inspections
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Friday, 29 Apr 2011

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration released unflattering reports documenting internal audits of inspections at field offices across the country.

MSHA reported much of the information to the Senate Appropriations Committee in March 2010.

The 2010 report revealed that officials failed to document inspections well enough to withstand court challenges and that a handful of inspectors failed to do mandatory spot inspections for mines generating high volumes of methane gas. That report also said MSHA audit focused only on field offices where it believed it had problems and was not indicative of a systemic problem at all 92 field office.

Mr Joe Main MSHA director said in a statement "It's important to do more than identify and correct specific issues. We take these findings seriously and are implementing new training, and revising policies and procedures to ensure that common problems that have been identified do not crop up again and again."

A 2010 audit at MSHA Staunton Va field office found Inspections appear not to be thorough or complete auditors wrote. "During the previous 6 regular inspections a total of 12 citations were issued. During the audit there were 11 citations and two orders issued.

The agency's enforcement actions have been criticized by some since the deaths of 29 miners in an explosion at Massey Energy Co's Upper Big Branch mine April 2010. Despite numerous citations, inspectors continued to find violations of critical safety measures at the southern West Virginia coal mine before the deadly blast.

MSHA Office of Accountability conducted the audits at three West Virginia field offices. More than 50 audits in all were conducted in offices dealing with both coal and metal and non-metal mines.

MSHA noted that the 2009 audits found supervisors weren't adequately reviewing inspections..

MSHA said that "By the end of April all metal and nonmetal supervisors will have completed this training. Supervisory training for coal mine safety and health supervisors will be scheduled during the next six months."

The 2010 audits which did not include any in West Virginia found inspectors improperly evaluated the gravity and negligence involved in specific citations. MSHA said it has improved training as a result.

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