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MSHA notifies Horizon of potential S and S violations

A recent photograph of Hidden Splendor's Horizon mine located near the Consumer's wash area.

Sun Advocate community editor

The United States Mine Safety and Health Administration recently notified Hidden Splendor Resources that the company's coal operation in Carbon County has demonstrated a potential pattern of recurrent significant and substantial violations.

In addition, the federal agency advised the company that Horizon mine will be monitored closely by MSHA for 90 days following the written S&S notification.

If the mine operator significantly reduces its violation frequency rate, it can avoid being issued a notice of pattern, according to MSHA.

However, if the improvements fall short of the criteria, MSHA will issue a formal notice.

For each S&S violation subsequently found, the federal agency will issue an order withdrawing miners from the affected area until the cited conditions have been corrected.

MSHA has put 15 operators nationwide on notice for a "potential pattern" of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under section 104 (e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, stated the agency's recent press release.

"The 13 coal mines and two metal/non-metal mines represent the fourth round of mine operators to receive these letters under MSHA's enhanced enforcement initiative," pointed out Michael Davis, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary for operations.

"Hopefully, these operators will use this opportunity to incorporate needed improvements into their safety and health programs," added Davis.

Amy Louviere, public affairs director for MSHA, explained that S&S violations are transgressions by mining companies that could reasonably be expected to lead to a serious injury or illness.

"Some general examples of an S&S violation could be insufficient roof support or excessive coal dust accumulation that could lead to a methane explosion," she said.

A computer generated report is run yearly that retrieves data for the most recent 24 months for every mine under MSHA's jurisdiction, indicated the agency's pattern of violations screening criteria and scoring model.

Mines active on the date the reports are generated are then reviewed to determine if a potential pattern of violations may exist.

The following criteria are used to perform initial screenings.

Mines meeting all of the following transgressions are then further reviewed to identify operations meeting appropriate specified criteria for the pattern.

The screening criteria is listed as mines having:

•At least 10 S&S citations/orders, at mines classified as surface and facility, issued during a 24 month period.

•At least 20 S&S citations/orders, at mines classified as underground, issued during a 24 month period.

•At least two "elevated enforcement" actions issued during the 24 month review period.

•The ratio of citations/orders issued in the most recent 12 months of the review period to the number of citations/orders issued during the previous 12 months of the review is 70 percent or greater.

The process has six more areas which are evaluated, scored and assessed. Once identified the office of assessments transmits a memorandum listing mining operations identified as exhibiting the potential pattern to the administrators for coal and metal and nonmetal mine safety and health and several other officials.

The memorandum includes a list of all potential candidates, the criteria and data associated with the list and the number, by standard, of repeated violation that became final orders of the commission during the review period.

At this point district managers are notified and given instructions for reviewing the designated operations and responding within seven days by identifying:

•The operations that will be issued a notification of a potential pattern of violations;

•and/or the operations for which the district manager recommends that no notification be issued.

If notified, the operation is then given "a reasonable opportunity," not to exceed 20 days from the date of the notification, to take the following steps:

•Review all documents upon which the pattern of violations evaluation is based and provide additional information.

•Submit a written request for conference with the district manager.

•And/ or provide a written corrective action plan to institute a program to avoid repeated significant and substantial violations at the operations.

According to DOL information, during the corrective action period, MSHA will conduct a complete inspection of the operation.

The notice of pattern shall be terminated when an inspection of the entire operation results in no withdrawal orders pursuant the Mine Act.

The operator may request an inspection of the entire operation or portion of the operation, according to the federal mine health and safety agency's guidelines.

No advance notice of the inspection shall be provided and the scope of each inspection will be determined by MSHA.

Partial inspections covering the entire operation within the 90-day period will constitute an inspection of the entire operation for the purposes of termination of a notice of pattern of violations, concluded the federal agency.

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