February 13, 2012

State mine safety team set to release final report on Upper Big Branch blast on Feb. 23

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia mining officials will release the fourth and final report on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster Feb. 23.

Leslie Fitzwater of the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training says it will be presented to the victims’ families at the Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley before it’s released publicly.

Leslie Fitzwater of the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training says it will be presented to the victims’ families at the Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley before it’s released publicly.

February 8, 2012

MSHA reorganizes to centralize oversight of assessments, accountability programs

MSHA News Release: [02/08/2012]
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (202) 693-9423
Release Number 12-233-NAT

MSHA reorganizes to centralize oversight of assessments, accountability programs

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced a reorganization designed to centralize its oversight of certain cross-cutting, compliance-related actions. MSHA’s Office of Assessments, Accountability, Special Enforcement and Investigations will incorporate the management, support and coordination of both routine and special assessments, as well as agency headquarters accountability functions and special enforcement strategies. This list includes the citing of flagrant violations, investigations of retaliation claims and possible criminal violations, impact inspections, the pattern of violations program and the use of injunctive authority.

Independent Investigator Weighs In On Mine Safety Bills

From: MetroNews (WV)

Legislation designed to fix the problems that lead to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the massive explosion that killed 29 coal miners in Raleigh County in April 2010, is now getting the attention of lawmakers at the State Capitol.

“Our focus is on what caused this accident,” Independent Investigator Davitt McAteer said on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.  “This accident is coal dust, this accident is methane gas and the absence of ventilation and a failure to follow basic rules.”

McAteer, a former Mine Safety and Health Administration head, came up with those findings after conducting a separate investigation into the UBB Disaster.

February 6, 2012

Tomblin expects lawmakers to OK miner drug testing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Thursday he believes lawmakers will quickly come to agreement and pass his proposed mine safety legislation, including a provision that calls for mandatory drug testing of coal miners.

Safety is paramount in a hazard-rich environment like a coal mine, Tomblin told the West Virginia Coal Association, “and to have somebody who’s impaired there is just completely unacceptable.”

Substance abuse is a pervasive statewide problem, but Tomblin says the substance of choice varies with geography — meth in the Kanawha Valley, street drugs like heroin and cocaine in northern counties and prescription drugs in the southern coalfields.

February 3, 2012

Main says violations at US coal mines down in 2011

By Vicki Smith, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Coal operators across the country are changing the way they work, and mines are becoming safer, but the head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said Thursday there are still too many who “don’t get it.”

In a speech at the West Virginia Coal Association’s annual mining symposium, MSHA chief Joe Main said his inspectors can’t be in every mine at every shift, and companies need to take more responsibility for running coal safely. Those who don’t, he warned, can expect to face tough penalties.