Federal appeals court unanimously rules Kentucky mine operator illegally gave advance notice of inspection to miners underground

First published by MSHA

 

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court has ruled unanimously that the operator of a Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, coal mine violated the federal Mine Safety and Health Act more than a decade ago by giving underground miners advance notice that mine inspectors were conducting an inspection.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on May 11, 2022, is the latest action in long-standing litigation involving an incident on April 20, 2012, at the Paradise No. 9 mine, operated by KenAmerican Resources Inc.

During a statutorily required inspection, U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors were monitoring a phone used to contact miners underground when, as they prepared to descend, they overheard someone down in the mine ask the dispatcher on the surface level if they “have company outside,” to which the dispatcher responded affirmatively.

MSHA inspectors then issued a citation to KenAmerican Resources Inc. for providing advance notice of an inspection. Federal law prohibits mine operators from such notice.

The mine operator appealed the citation, arguing the law against giving advance notice of an inspection does not apply to mine operators. They also argued that they had only provided advance notice that MSHA was “at the mine,” and had not provided advance notice of an inspection. The operator also argued the citation violated their free-speech rights.

“The 6th Circuit has reaffirmed that KenAmerican Resources Inc.’s actions violated federal law,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Mine workers are safer when federal inspectors can see mine conditions as they exist on a day-to-day basis, not when conditions have been altered to avoid violations.”

In its decision, the court rejected all arguments made to challenge the citation and held that the law plainly prohibits operators from providing advance notice. The court also found the case’s facts clearly show the mine’s operator provided advance notice that MSHA inspectors were conducting an inspection.

“Our statutorily mandated inspections are at the heart of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement program. This decision affirms MSHA’s ability to conduct inspections without interference from mine operators as Congress intended,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Christopher J. Williamson.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Conducting self-inspections: Two methods

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Inspections are an important part of any workplace safety and health management system. Described in a video from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Division of Labor and Industry as the practice of “identifying unsafe conditions through observations and testing of the work environment,” inspections can cover housekeeping, emergency alarms, electrical hazards, machine guarding and chemical hazards.

One method is a daily informal inspection. The video offers an example: An employee can start their workday by inspecting their work area for slip, trip or fall hazards. “A supervisor or manager may then follow up with the employee regarding what was found.”

A formal inspection is another method. This type of inspection could be conducted weekly, monthly or quarterly. What makes it “formal”? It should be performed by experts who are knowledgeable in the subject matter and have the ability to recognize unsafe conditions. Inspecting complex machinery, for example, should always be conducted as a formal inspection, Maryland DLI says.

Once an inspection is completed, “an authorized individual should ensure corrections are made in a timely manner.” If a long-term solution is needed, Maryland DLI recommends putting interim controls in place. If an issue is severe, workers should be removed depending on the level of severity.

To help increase accountability and worker trust in your safety and health management program, share findings from inspections via bulletin boards in common areas and during safety meetings, or by sending emails or texts.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

DOL OIG to audit MSHA’s inspection processes during pandemic

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Photo property of MSHA

Washington — The Department of Labor Office of Inspector General will conduct an audit of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s ability to complete required safety and health inspections amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an audit notice dated Oct. 29 and addressed to MSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and acting administrator Jeannette Galanis, Carolyn Hantz, assistant inspector general for audit programs, requests copies of inspection reports and various other agency records, policies and procedures. These include:

  • National, regional and district documents applicable to COVID-19 adjustments or other process changes related to mandatory safety and health inspections
  • Criteria for assigning and changing mine status, including any business rules
  • More recent versions or pending changes to the MSHA Program Police Manual, Volume 1; supervisors’ handbooks; the MSHA Centralized Application System user manual; and the Inspection Application System user guide
  • Accountability audits, internal reviews and evaluations issued since Oct. 1, 2017, related to mine status classifications or changes, completion of mandatory inspections, or COVID-19

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 directs MSHA to inspect underground mines four times annually and surface mines twice a year.

The audit notice indicates that “work is expected to begin immediately” after a meeting between DOL OIG and an MSHA audit liaison “to discuss the audit objective, scope and methodology.”

A DOL spokesperson told Safety+Health that “MSHA is aware of the OIG audit of the COVID-19 impact on MSHA’s mandatory inspection program and will comply with the request for information.”

During a Sept. 29 stakeholder conference call, Galanis said MSHA won’t require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly negative testing at the nation’s mines. She said the Mine Act gives MSHA the authority to issue hygiene-related citations and temporarily shut down mine operations at facilities in which the coronavirus is found to be spreading.

Agency officials on the call also pointed to updated MSHA guidance – issued in March – that advises mine operators at coal, metal and nonmetal mines to establish a virus protection program or augment an existing one. The guidance includes recommendations on the use of personal protective equipment, physical distancing strategies, improving ventilation, effective hygiene and routine cleaning.

“We must be able to inspect mines during COVID,” Galanis said, “and so our mine inspectors are doing their jobs and getting out there and trying to be as careful as possible.”


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

FMCSA seeks to add rear impact guards to annual CMV inspection list

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing to add rear impact guards to the list of components to be examined during mandatory yearly inspections of commercial motor vehicles.

Rear impact guards are designed to prevent “underrides,” which occur when a passenger vehicle strikes the rear of a CMV and slides underneath.

According to a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register, rear impact guards have been required on CMVs for nearly 70 years but aren’t included on the list of components in Appendix G for required inspections. This means that a CMV can pass an annual inspection with a missing or damaged rear impact guard, FMCSA notes.

Additionally, the agency is proposing to amend labeling requirements for the guards “and to exclude road construction controlled (RCC) horizontal discharge trailers from the rear impact guard requirements.”

The deadline to comment on the proposed rule is March 1.


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, DOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Call us Today at 888-758-4757 or email us at info@mccrarencompliance.com to schedule your free FMCSA Compliance Assessment.

 

Annual brake inspection blitz examines more vehicles than in 2019

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Photo: Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Greenbelt, MD — Commercial motor vehicle inspectors across North America conducted 43,565 brake system inspections and identified 5,156 vehicles – or 11.8% – with out-of-service conditions during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Brake Safety Week, the organization announced Oct. 27.

Conducted Aug. 23-29 – during Brake Safety Awareness Month – this year’s outreach and enforcement campaign saw more vehicles inspected and fewer placed out of service than in 2019, when those totals were 34,320 and 4,626 (13.5%), respectively.

According to CVSA, 53 jurisdictions – including 45 in the United States – participated in this year’s event, which involved both announced and unannounced brake system inspections. Inspectors put special emphasis on brake hoses and tubing; a separate data query from participating jurisdictions found 6,697 hose chafing violations.

“Although many commercial motor vehicle enforcement agencies were forced to reduce services in the spring due to the (COVID-19) pandemic, it was important that we resumed inspection and enforcement duties as soon as it was safe to do so,” CVSA President John Samis said in a press release. “With truck drivers designated ‘essential personnel’ by the government, we needed to ensure that the vehicles traversing our roadways were safe to support commercial drivers as they selflessly continued to work during such a difficult and challenging time.”

Brake Safety Week is part of CVSA’s Operation Airbrake campaign, which is conducted in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

Next year’s event is set for Aug. 22-28.


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, DOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Call us Today at 888-758-4757 or email us at info@mccrarencompliance.com to schedule your free FMCSA Compliance Assessment.

Speeding most cited violation during Operation Safe Driver Week


First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.
Greenbelt, MD — Law enforcement officials issued more than 71,000 citations and warnings to drivers during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Operation Safe Driver Week.

From July 12 to July 18, law enforcement officials throughout the United States and Canada were on the lookout for commercial and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in unsafe behaviors such as following too closely, not wearing a seat belt and distracted driving, while placing added emphasis on speeding, CVSA states in a Sept. 2 press release.

Citations and warnings related to speeding were most common among both groups of drivers. Commercial motor vehicle drivers received 2,339 citations and 3,423 warnings for speeding, while passenger drivers accounted for 14,378 citations and 11,456 warnings.

Rounding out the top five citations issued to CMV drivers: failure to wear a seat belt (1,003), failure to obey a traffic control device (617), texting or using a handheld phone (269), and improper lane change (122).

The next most common citations issued to passenger vehicle drivers were failure to wear a seat belt (932), possession/use/under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (452), failure to obey a traffic control device (399), and improper lane change (273).

“Although CVSA is a commercial motor vehicle safety organization, it was important that passenger vehicle drivers were also involved in this annual weeklong driver safety enforcement initiative,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “When commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles collide, no matter who was at fault, the results can be catastrophic, especially for the smaller and lighter passenger vehicle. Preventing crashes from happening requires every driver – commercial and personal – to be aware of how to safely share the road with other types of vehicles.”

The rate of motor vehicle-related deaths jumped 20% in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2019 – despite a 17% drop in the number of miles driven – according to preliminary estimates released Sept. 15 by the National Safety Council.


McCraren Compliance can help you understand and comply with FMCSA, DOT and ADOT and ensure your drivers and your vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Call us Today at 888-758-4757 or email us at info@mccrarencompliance.com to schedule your free FMCSA Compliance Assessment

Assessing COVID-19 hazards, controls in manufacturing facilities: CDC publishes toolkit

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Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta — A new toolkit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is designed to help workplace safety and health professionals and public health officials assess manufacturing facilities’ COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures.

The toolkit includes a checklist to “determine whether control measures in place align with CDC/OSHA guidance.” CDC recommends conducting a checklist assessment when a COVID-19 control plan is developed and each time it’s revised. The assessment should include these steps:
Pre-assessment: Inform all parties of the assessment’s goals. Work as a group to review the checklist to determine if each part applies to your company.
Walkthrough: While conducting the walkthrough of a facility, use the checklist to document what you find. Observe as much of the plant processes as possible. Limit participation to those familiar with plant processes.
Post-assessment: After conducting the assessment, discuss observations, develop action items, determine steps to protect workers, and prioritize actions to take to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Other resources are quick reference slides for safety pros and health officials, as well as quick reference guides in the form of one-page flyers for employers and employees. The toolkit also can be used to assess manufacturing facilities’ overall hazard assessment and control plans.

CDC says the guidance will be updated “as needed and as additional information becomes available.”

Operation Safe Driver Week slated for July 12-18

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Photo: Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

Greenbelt, MD — Law enforcement officers are expected to keep an extra sharp watch for commercial and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in unsafe behaviors July 12-18 during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Operation Safe Driver Week.

Officers will be looking for drivers who are texting, following too closely, not wearing seat belts or maneuvering in otherwise unsafe manners, while placing added emphasis on speeding.

A May 12 CVSA press release cites recent findings from the Governors Highway Safety Association showing that state highway officials nationwide “are seeing a severe spike in speeding” as traffic volume has decreased as a result of quarantines and stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council show that, in March, the rate of motor vehicle deaths in the United States was 14% higher than in March 2019 despite fewer drivers being on the road.

CMV and passenger vehicle drivers in North America received nearly 47,000 citations and around 88,000 warnings during last year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, per data collected from law enforcement personnel. Citations and warnings related to speeding were most common, with CMV drivers receiving 1,454 citations and 2,126 warnings, and passenger vehicle drivers receiving 16,102 citations and 21,001 warnings.

“It’s essential that this enforcement initiative, which focuses on identifying and deterring unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, go on as scheduled,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “As passenger vehicle drivers are limiting their travel to necessary trips and many [CMV] drivers are busy transporting vital goods to stores, it’s more important than ever to monitor our roadways for safe transport.”

COVID-19 pandemic: CVSA postpones annual ‘Roadcheck’

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Photo: WendellandCarolyn/iStockphoto

Greenbelt, MD — In response to industry concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has postponed its 33rd annual International Roadcheck – an enforcement and safety outreach event initially slated for May 5-7.

According to a March 25 press release, CVSA officials will monitor the pandemic and, “when it’s safe and reasonable to do so,” announce new dates for the event, during which inspectors throughout North America will examine braking systems, lights, tires and other commercial truck and bus components. In the meantime, enforcement personnel will continue to perform daily duties.

“As we urgently respond to this time-sensitive crisis, we must remain diligent and committed to ensuring that the commercial motor vehicles and drivers providing essential goods and services to our communities are following motor carrier safety regulations,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “Safety doesn’t take a break. It is always our top priority.

“International Roadcheck has run on schedule for the past 32 years, so its postponement was thoroughly and thoughtfully discussed before we made this decision, but it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. This experience is unprecedented in our modern society and we need to do all that we can to help stop the spread of this global pandemic.”

An expanded national emergency declaration issued March 18 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration grants temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to CMV drivers transporting items intended to assist with pandemic relief efforts.

Last year’s International Roadcheck resulted in more than 67,000 inspections and placed 17.9% of vehicles and 4.2% of drivers inspected out of service.

CVSA states in the release that other public enforcement initiatives set for this summer, including Operation Safe Driver Week (July 12-18) and Brake Safety Week (Aug. 23-29), remain as scheduled.

ADOT partners with Hopi Tribe on commercial vehicle safety inspections

Officers using mobile ports to check semis driving through reservation
PHOENIX – To enhance safety on state highways, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Enforcement and Compliance Division partnered with the Hopi Tribe to set up a mobile commercial vehicle inspection site on the reservation.

Concerned that overweight semi trailers and those in violation of safety regulations may be using state roads that pass through the Hopi reservation to evade commercial ports of entry, the tribal government reached out to ADOT for assistance. ADOT sent officers to set up a mobile inspection site along State Route 264 near the junction with State Route 87, while officers patrolled other parts of SR 264, SR 87 and Indian Route 2 to ensure that commercial vehicles weren’t evading the mobile inspection site. Continue reading»