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Feds want coal mines to expand scope of exams

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    Feds want coal mines to expand scope of exams Associated Press By LAWRENCE MESSINA December 23, 2010 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Federal regulators on Wednesday
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      Feds want coal mines to expand scope of exams

      Feds want coal mines to expand scope of exams

      Associated Press

      By LAWRENCE MESSINA

      December 23, 2010

      CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Federal regulators on Wednesday sought to require coal operators to inspect their underground mines for health and safety violations, in addition to the hazard checks they now conduct.

      The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration proposed revised rules governing the exams that operators must perform before and during work shifts, as well as weekly and as follow-ups.

      "Examinations are the first line of defense for miners working in underground coal mines," MSHA director Joe Main said in a statement. "Mine operators must take ownership for their workers' health and safety by conducting basic workplace examinations to ensure they are in compliance with health and safety standards."

      The current regulations require that operators identify, correct and record hazardous conditions during these exams. In seeking to expand that to cover violations of mandatory health or safety standards, MSHA cited its review of accident investigation reports and its own enforcement actions going back five years.

      "MSHA determined that the same types of violations of mandatory health or safety standards are found by MSHA inspectors in underground coal mines every year," the agency said in a statement.

      Industry officials either did not immediately respond to requests for comment or were still reviewing MSHA's proposal Wednesday. But a former regulator now investigating April's explosion at a West Virginia mine that killed 29 men called it a reasonable step in the right direction.

      J. Davitt McAteer, who headed MSHA during the Clinton administration, is overseeing the state's review of the Upper Big Branch disaster, the deadliest U.S. coal mine disaster since 1970, also the subject of federal criminal and civil investigations.

      "They should be one and the same. The hazards typically should be the same as the violations of the health and safety standards," McAteer said. "This formalizes, in essence, the requirement that they deal with the health and safety standards."

      The proposed rule change would also require operators to review all citations and enforcement orders with regulators every three months. The agency said that its inspectors issued 82,126 citations and orders at underground coal mines last year.

      Press Release: http://www.msha.gov/MEDIA/PRESS/2010/NR101222.asp

      _________________________

      U. S. Mine Rescue Association

      www.usmra.com

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