MSHA chief Joe Main has given a couple of interviews lately that are worth noting. First, there was this story from The Associated Press a week ago:
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s continuing crackdown on the coal industry hasn’t deterred the industry’s growth, director Joe Main said Friday.
From April 2010 to June 2011, the number of underground mining employees grew by about 11 percent, Main said in an interview with The Associated Press on his second anniversary as assistant secretary of labor in charge of mine safety.
There was also an 8 percent increase in the number of new mining units, meaning either new operations or expansions of existing mines, in the past fiscal year. Main said that demonstrates that strategic, targeted initiatives can work.
“We’ve applied tools that are effective on safety but also don’t deter growth,” he said.
And then, there was this story from the Louisville Courier-Journal on Sunday:
After the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster killed 29 miners last year, federal coal-mine regulators launched a new program of safety blitzes, showing up unannounced at mines in Kentucky and other states, seizing telephones so people underground would get no warning, and fanning out in search of hazards.
Since April 2010, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has conducted 251 so-called “impact inspections” in coal mines, including 73 in Kentucky and seven in Indiana.
Those safety sweeps have netted 4,530 citations for violations, including nearly 2,000 in Kentucky and 111 in Indiana. At the same time, MSHA has ordered 427 temporary mine closings to fix problems, including 174 in Kentucky and six in Indiana.
Two years into his job as the nation’s top mine regulator, MSHA Administrator Joseph Main says the safety blitzes and other initiatives he’s championed are building blocks for “the best foundation … for mine safety in this country.”
MSHA also is moving ahead with proposed regulations to improve and tighten coal-dust monitoring to protect miners from excess exposure that can lead to black lung disease; new rules to crack down on operators with a pattern of safety violations; and additional action to prevent equipment from crushing miners.
“We’re trying to do the right things, whether it be ending black lung disease, preventing these most common deaths (in accidents) … and preventing mine disasters,” Main said in an interview. “I know that we need more improvements to get us where we need to be.”