Mine Safety: MSHA's and Other Federal Agencies' Improved Oversight Could Enhance Safety for Coal Miners: GAO-07-855T

Bertoni, Daniel
May 2007
GAO Reports;5/16/2007, p1
Government Documents
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor, the states, and the mining industry share responsibility for ensuring mine safety. In two reports released today, GAO examined the challenges underground coal mines face in preparing for emergencies, how well MSHA oversees mine operators' training efforts, how well MSHA and NIOSH coordinate to enhance the development and approval of mine safety technology, MSHA's coal mine inspector recruiting efforts, and how civil penalties are assessed. Underground coal mine operators reported facing significant challenges in preparing for emergencies, including ensuring that miners receive realistic training and organizing mine rescue teams that satisfy new requirements. While mine operators recognize the importance of providing training in an environment that simulates an emergency, many of them reported challenges such as limited access to special training facilities and the cost of providing such training. In addition, mine operators reported that they anticipate challenges in implementing new mine rescue team requirements, such as conducting training annually at each mine the rescue team services. MSHA approves mine operators' training plans and inspects their training records, but its oversight of miner training is hampered by several factors. For example, MSHA does not have current information on its instructors and does not ensure that they keep their knowledge and skills up to date. In addition, MSHA does not adequately monitor instructors or evaluate training sessions, and does not assess how well miners are learning the skills being taught. MSHA and NIOSH have a common mission to improve the safety and health of coal miners, but they do not have a current memorandum of understanding to guide their coordination efforts. As a result, most of the coordination that occurs is initiated by individual staff members or by outside parties. Such informal coordination may not be sufficient given the pending retirements of many MSHA and NIOSH engineers and scientists and other challenges both agencies face. In 2004, MSHA began a new process for hiring mine inspectors, which has led to a number of improvements, such as being able to identify applicants who possess the basic skills needed to be successful inspectors and decreasing the time it takes to hire new inspectors. However, MSHA's human capital plan does not include a strategic approach for addressing the large number of retirements expected in the next 5 years. While most of the penalties proposed by MSHA are paid by mine operators without opposition, a small percentage of the cases involving more serious and higher dollar penalties are appealed, and those appealed are often reduced significantly. MSHA uses a standard formula to propose penalties, but the other entities...


Related Articles

  • Mine Safety: Better Oversight and Coordination by MSHA and Other Federal Agencies Could Improve Safety for Underground Coal Miners: GAO-07-622.  // GAO Reports;5/16/2007, p1 

    The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor, the states, and the mining industry share responsibility for ensuring mine...

  • Prevalence and cost of cumulative injuries over two decades of technological advances: a look at underground coal mining in the U.S. Moore, S. M.; Bauer, E. R.; Steiner, L J. // Mining Engineering;Jan2008, Vol. 60 Issue 1, p46 

    Technological advances in underground coal mining have reduced fatalities but may not have reduced worker exposure to cumulative injury risk factors. The objective of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of cumulative injuries before and after the implementation of technological advances in...

  • Why Miners Report (or do not report) Safety-relevant Information. Peters, Robert H.; Kosmoski, Carin // Engineering & Mining Journal (00958948);Nov2014, Vol. 215 Issue 11, p56 

    The article discusses the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research focused on U.S. coal mines safety. Topics discussed include injury-reporting concerns that may be applicable to the industry, failure of coal mine workers to report safety incidents, and a...

  • Proposed Rules: DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.  // Federal Register (National Archives & Records Service, Office of;9/23/2013, Vol. 78 Issue 184, p58264 

    The article presents the U.S. Department of Labor as well as the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) request for information (RFI) and extension of comment period on Refuge Alternatives for Underground Coal Mines. It mentions that the extension is made to give additional time for...

  • Frictional ignitions in underground bituminous coal operations 1983 to 2005. SCHATZEL, S. J.; KROG, A. B. // Mining Engineering;Aug2009, Vol. 61 Issue 8, p28 

    A statistical study of available data regarding frictional ignitions in the United States from 1983 to 2005 was conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to determine and define conditions controlling their occurrence (MSHA, 2006a; MSHA, 2006b; and MSHA,...

  • COAL DUST ON THE HORIZON. Meyerstein, Avi // Coal Age;Jun2009, Vol. 114 Issue 6, p64 

    The author discusses the coal dust regulations implemented by Mine Safety and Health Administration (MHSA) for coal mine operators in the U.S. The author cites the efforts of the MHSA in modifying the regulatory agenda through technology for more strict implementation of coal dust exposure...

  • MSHA's Revised Hiring Process Has Improved the Agency's Recruiting Efforts, but Its Human Capital Strategic Plan Does Not Adequately Project or Address Its Future Workforce Needs: GAO-07-704R.  // GAO Reports;5/16/2007, p1 

    In 2003, GAO recommended that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) develop a plan for addressing anticipated shortages in the number of qualified inspectors due to upcoming retirements, including considering options such as streamlining the agency's hiring process and offering...


    The article provides information on a noncombustible, non-respirable rock dust mixture (DYWIDust) and an application system (DYWDuster) developed by DSI Underground Systems. The technique can be used by coal operators in converting dry rock dust into a dependable and user-friendly wet-dusting...

  • MSHA Tests Coal-Dust Monitoring Devices.  // Coal Age;Sep98, Vol. 103 Issue 9, p46 

    Focuses on the coal-dust monitoring device which will be installed and tested by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Sites for the testing; Process of the testing; Information on the toll-free hotline for coal...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics