By Terrance V. Newhouse

Dramatic mine injuries early in 2006 have ended in passage of the 1st significant modification to federal mine protection legislations considering the fact that 1977. The Mine development and New Emergency reaction Act calls for each one mine to have an emergency plan, elevated offers of oxygen, and greater rescue groups. consequences for violations have additionally been elevated. even if the invoice had extensive aid in Congress, a few contributors have characterized it as just a 'first step', to be by way of extra measures that might comprise a reduce greatest restrict on dirt concentrations, underground refuges, communications and monitoring units, and bigger emphasis on enforcement of criteria. On January 2, 2006, the country was once reminded of the risks of underground mining, as 12 miners died in an explosion and fireplace within the Sago mine in West Virginia. for this reason, the Mine safeguard and healthiness management (MSHA) issued new laws; Congress has handed the 1st significant revision of the mine protection legislations because 1977 and has taken additional debts into consideration; and, kingdom legislatures in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois have tightened their very own legislation. those responses have emphasized components idea to have performed a component within the Sago tragedy, together with emergency oxygen offers, monitoring and communique structures, and deployment of rescue groups. There have additionally been proposals to extend the consequences for violations of safeguard criteria.

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Yet, without having a more structured method of coordination, their shared knowledge base and research cannot be used to effectively speed the implementation of new safety technology in mines. Finally, given the trends over the past 10 years for penalties contested by mine operators, the higher proposed penalties under MSHA’s new penalty structure will likely lead more operators to appeal. This reaction is also likely to increase the number of cases that are settled by Labor’s Solicitor’s Office, MSHA’s CLRs, and the ALJs at the Commission using methods to determine final penalty amounts that are more subjective than penalties proposed using MSHA’s standard formula.

We spoke with Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials in 6 of the 11 districts, including inspectors, conference litigation representatives (CLR), and district managers; and officials from the headquarters office, the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, Educational Policy and Development, the Educational Field Services, and certified trainers. We met with representatives from the Office of the Solicitor, including officials in the headquarters and regional offices, and interviewed the Chairman of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, its Chief ALJ, and other Commission officials.

A copy of the survey questionnaire can be found in appendix II. To verify the clarity, length of time of administration, and suitability of the questions, we pretested the questionnaire with mine safety officials at three mines. We revised the instrument based on the results of the pretests and the feedback we received. Administration of the Survey We used a self-administered mail-out questionnaire that was in the field between November 2006 and February 2007. We conducted several follow-up efforts to encourage a higher response rate: a reminder letter, a second mailing that included another copy of the questionnaire, and two efforts to contact nonrespondents by telephone.

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