Mining Inspectors Zero In On Workplace Safety

 

Mining inspectors in Ontario are focusing in on diesel emissions and other hazards that could affect air quality during a blitz in underground mines.
 
As part of the province’s Safe at Work Ontario strategy, which was unveiled four and a half years ago, Ministry of Labor inspectors are making sure that employers are complying with recent changes to emission requirements for diesel-powered equipment under the Regulations for Mines and Mining Plants.
 
Officials believe the changes improve protection for workers from the potentially harmful effects of diesel emissions by:
 
     Setting a lower allowed limit of carbon exposure for workers and
     Requiring equipment be tested under consistent conditions
 
The changes went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
 
 
Illness and Death Result from Poor Air Quality
 
Poor air quality in underground mines can lead to occupational illness and death of workers. In particular, workers are at risk in the event they are exposed to carbon monoxide in diesel exhaust.
 
Underground mines can have poor air quality when:
 
     There are too many "particulate particles" (a mixture of various chemical solids and gasses including carbon and nitrous oxide) and other airborne substances such as dust in the air and/or when
     Fumes emitted by diesel-powered equipment are over the prescribed limits
 
To protect workers, the new amendments require employers to:
 
     Perform routine testing to determine the carbon monoxide content of exhaust from diesel-powered equipment under consistent conditions
     Develop and implement testing measures and procedures for diesel-powered equipment, in consultation with the mine's Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or health and safety representative
     Provide test results, as required, to the JHSC or health and safety representative
     Investigate overexposure by workers to diesel emissions and take remedial action, if possible, to prevent future incidents
 
The mining regulations are part of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
 
 
Inspectors Focus in on Diesel Equipment
 
Inspectors will target underground mines that use diesel equipment, including:
 
     Mines with large fleets of diesel equipment operating in the underground environment
     Recently reopened or new mines operating diesel equipment
     Mines where previous ventilation concerns were observed, and
     Mines with a poor health and safety compliance history
 
Inspectors will check on two types of equipment:
 
     Diesel equipment used for underground transportation of workers and materials and blasting of rock and
     Ventilation systems used to deliver fresh air to underground mines
 
Lastly, mining inspectors will zero in on the top priorities:
 
Committee Consultation: Inspectors will check that employers have developed and implemented testing measures and procedures for each piece of diesel equipment, in consultation with the JHSC or health and safety representative.
 
Diesel Equipment: Inspectors will check that equipment used for underground transportation of workers and materials is being regularly tested, as required.
 
Workplace Air Sampling: Inspectors will check that employers are regularly testing the air in underground mines to ensure exposure to toxic airborne substances do not exceed the prescribed limits.
 
 
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.
 
©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

Miners Speaking Up About Their Safety Are Unjustly Losing Their Jobs

 

More Discrimination Requests Than Any Other Year
 
The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently reported that it had filed 39 requests during fiscal year 2012, more than in any other year, with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission for temporary reinstatements on behalf of miners who submitted complaints of discrimination in the form of a suspension, layoff, discharge or other adverse action.
 
From October 2009 through September 2012, the department filed 79 temporary reinstatement requests – an average of 26 per year – compared to an average of seven per year from October 1993 to September 2009. Additionally, the department filed a total of 84 discrimination complaints with the commission during the same period, compared to 28 during the three prior years combined.
 
 
Miner Can Not Be Dismissed for Safety
 
According to Section 105(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, a miner cannot be discharged, discriminated against or interfered with in the exercise of statutory rights because he or she has engaged in a protected activity such as filing a complaint alleging a health or safety violation, or refusing to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
 
"MSHA strongly encourages miners to exercise their rights under the Mine Act and maximize their involvement in monitoring safety and health conditions," said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "In turn, we will vigorously investigate all discrimination complaints."
 
If MSHA finds that a miner's complaint is "not frivolously brought," the agency, at the request of the miner, will ask the commission to order immediate reinstatement for the miner.
 
 
Fears Came to Light In Wake of Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster
 
Issues relating to fears of discrimination and retaliation came to light during congressional hearings held in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. Statements from miners and family members of the miners who died indicated that mine employees had been reluctant to speak out about safety conditions in existence prior to the April 2010 explosion, fearing retaliation by management. Testimony from UBB employees presented during MSHA's investigation also supports those claims.
 
 
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com
 
©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

Shockingly Low Fine From Three Work Related Deaths

 

Potential Fine was $750,000
 
The $46,000 fine imposed on VLI Drilling in Greymouth, New Zealand recently for its failures at the Pike River mine is shockingly low, says the miners' union, the EPMU.
 
The company faced a potential fine of $750,000 over three charges relating to its failure to take all practicable steps to protect its employees' health and safety at the mine.
 
VLI, a subsidiary of Sydney-based Valley Longwall International, had Josh Ufer, 25, Ben Rockhouse, 21, and Joseph Dunbar, 17, down the mine at the time of the fatal explosion on November 19, 2010. It was Joseph Dunbar's first day at work.
 
 
Low Fine Sends the Wrong Signal
 
EPMU Director of Organizing Alan Clarence says the shockingly low fine sends the wrong signal.
 
"The EPMU shares the concerns of the Pike River families over the low level of the fine. This sends the wrong message to companies looking to cut corners on health and safety and is particularly concerning given the loss of life at the mine,” said Clarence. "VLI essentially contracted out its health and safety checks to Pike River, abdicating its most basic responsibilities as an employer. This is what happens when companies try to devolve their responsibility to provide a safe workplace by contracting out, and the result is New Zealand's unacceptably high rate of workplace deaths and injuries.
 
 
Government Needs To Ensure Proper Safety
 
Clarence added that the Government needs to ensure this kind of employment practice is not allowed again.
 
“It can do this by introducing worker-elected check inspectors to ensure safety checks are being done, and by strengthening the law to ensure companies cannot contract out of their health and safety responsibilities,” stated Clarence.
 
The EPMU is a democratic union representing 40,000 working New Zealanders across 11 industries.
 
 
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.
 
©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

Mine Safety and Health Administration Proposes 594,000 in Fines

 

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed $594,100 in fines to Manalapan Mining Co. Inc.'s P-1 Mine in Harlan County, Ky., for four violations.
 
The proposed penalties were assessed as a result of an investigation into the June 2011 death of a miner who was fatally injured when a large section of rock fell from the underground coal mines wall, or rib, and knocked him into a dolly.
 
Although there were no witnesses to the accident, federal accident investigators believe that the continuous haulage system backed up during the mining process, causing the dolly to move along the conveyer belt structure and drag the victim, David Partin, from beneath the fallen material.
 
MSHA determined that the accident occurred because the mine operator failed to support or control the ribs to protect the miner on one of its mechanized mining units, or MMUs. Additionally, the operator failed to conduct adequate pre-shift and on-shift examinations, and ignored the hazardous rib conditions on the MMU. Finally, the operator failed to revise and upgrade the roof control plan to address changing geological conditions that had occurred on the MMU.
 
The agency has proposed penalties for one violation at $70,000 and three flagrant violations at $174,700 each. A flagrant violation is defined as a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury. Flagrant violations, which were established under the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, may be assessed a maximum civil penalty of $220,000 each.
 
"Dozens of miners are injured by rib and roof falls every year and, tragically, some are killed," said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The accident investigation found that, had the mine operator properly secured the mine's ribs and revised its roof control plan to address changing geologic conditions, this tragedy might have been averted."
 
Last month, MSHA launched its annual Preventive Roof Rib Outreach Program, an educational initiative designed to alert miners and mine operators about the dangers of roof and rib falls, as well as the methods for thoroughly checking and addressing hazardous roof and rib conditions.
 
The mine operator has contested all of the violations related to the June 2011 fatality.
 
 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com

 

 


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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

MSHA Reports on Final Rule to Enhance Miners Health and Safety

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently announced that the final rule "Examinations of Work Areas in Underground Coal Mines for Violations of Mandatory Health or Safety Standards" was to be published in the April 6 issue of the Federal Register.

 
 
The rule will reportedly enhance miners' health and safety by requiring mine operators to identify and correct hazardous conditions and violations of nine health and safety standards that pose the greatest risk to miners, including the kinds of conditions that led to the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine. [WCx]
 
 
"Many of the same types of violations of mandatory health and safety standards are repeatedly found by MSHA inspectors in underground coal mines every year," said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "It is critically important for mine operators to take ownership of health and safety. By expanding the existing requirement that operators identify and correct hazardous conditions to include violations of these nine standards, a number of fatalities and injuries may be prevented."
 
 
The nine standards address ventilation, methane, roof control, combustible materials, rock dust, equipment guarding and other safeguards. They are consistent with the standards emphasized in MSHA's "Rules to Live By" initiative and the types of violations cited in MSHA's accident investigation report on the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion as contributing to the cause of that deadly accident.
 
 
The rule requires that, during pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations, underground coal mine operators must, in addition to examining for hazardous conditions as in the existing regulations, record the actions taken to correct the conditions and violations. Operators also must review with mine examiners, on a quarterly basis, citations and orders issued in areas where pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations are required.
 
 
The rule was proposed in December 2010, and five public hearings were held in June and July 2011. Mine operators are currently required by law to conduct these examinations. The final rule will ensure that such examinations are maximally effective in preventing injuries and fatalities by requiring operators to examine and fix violations of those standards that represent the greatest risk to underground coal miners.
 
 
"As we have said so many times before, MSHA cannot be at every mine every day," Main added. "This rule places mine operators in a proactive, rather than reactive, role by requiring them to conduct examinations to identify a potentially hazardous condition before it results in a danger to miners."
 
 
In 2010, MSHA cited approximately 173,000 violations, of which approximately 80,000 were attributable to underground coal mines, even though these mines represent just 4 percent of all mines.

 

MSHA launched Rules to Live By, an outreach and enforcement program designed to strengthen efforts to prevent mining fatalities, in February 2010. The first phase was focused on spotlighting the safety and health standards most frequently cited during fatal accident investigations.
 
 
Rules to Live By II, which began in November 2010, reviewed accidents that resulted in five or more fatalities, as well as incidents caused by fires or explosions that had the potential to result in more fatalities.[WCx]
 
 
Rules to Live By III, initiated this past January, focuses on 14 safety standards associated with violations contributing to at least five mining accidents and at least five deaths during a recent 10-year period. See our Mining Industry WC Guide and our Issues by Industry Guide for general guidelines.

 

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He is an editor and contributor to Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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