Coal Tattoo

The U.Department of Labor just released its major report on the “pattern of violations” program at the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The report is titled, “In 32 years, MSHA has never successfully exercised its pattern of violations authority,” and the entire document is online here. The conclusion:

Administration of this authority has been hampered by a lack of leadership and priority in the Department across various administrations.

It goes on:

MSHA took 13 years to finalize POV regulations. Those regulations created limitations on MSHA’s authority that were not present in the enabling legislation and made it difficult for MSHA to place mines on POV status. For the next 17 years, MSHA Districts performed POV analyses based on individual interpretations of requirements, but never put any mine operator on POV status. In 2007, MSHA attempted to implement a standardized method based on quantitative data for identifying potential POV mines. However, (a) the process was unreliable and (b) the criteria were complex and lacked a supportable rationale.

Among the other specific findings:

— MSHA did not monitor the implementation of mine operators’ POV corrective action plans;

— Logic errors caused unreliable results from MSHA’s POV computer application;

— Tests identified no deficiencies in the reliability of data MSHA used for POV screening; and

— Delays in testing rock dust samples could cause delays in identifying safety hazards.