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The Iron Law & MSHA

The Iron Law & MSHA

By Brian Hendrix

The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) primary purpose, as stated by Congress, should be the same as all in the mining industry, to protect “the health and safety of [our] most precious resource, the miner.” However, like all bureaucratic organizations, MSHA is subject to the Iron Law of Bureaucracy. When MSHA works to violate the Iron Law or simply resists its inexorable pull, MSHA works for the health and safety of the miner. When it complies with the Iron Law, MSHA works for MSHA.

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Administrative Law Judge’s Ruling May Impact MSHA’s POV Determinations

By Linda Otaigbe

This has been an interesting year for the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) Pattern of Violations (POV) rule. The authority for creating the POV rule originates from the Mine Act, which authorizes the secretary of labor to “make such rules as he deems necessary to establish criteria for determining when a pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards exists.”

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MSHA Imminent Danger Orders for Violations by Independent Contractors Will Require Stronger Contract Provisions

By Nickole Winnett and Breyana Penn

Recently, Administrative Law Judge Thomas McCarthy for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, confirmed that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has unfettered discretion to issue an imminent danger order against a mine operator for its independent contractor’s violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and MSHA regulations. (See Cloverlick Coal Company LLC v. MSHA).

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Do Your Miners Have the Munchies?

By Avi Meyerstein and Matthew Nieman

Are some of your miners having a little too much fun in their spare time? With cultural norms and state laws regarding marijuana use in flux around the country, the answer may be “yes,” which puts you and other mine operators in a challenging position.

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Potentially More Penalties? The Concern with MSHA's Proposed Part 100 Overhaul

By Breyana A. Penn

It is no secret that there are often differences in opinions between inspectors and operators on what exactly constitutes the proper negligence or gravity designation of an alleged violation. Operators have, therefore, found themselves fighting to defend the integrity of their mine(s) in light of the blatant subjectivity and speculation that seems to accompany so many citations. Case in point: in 2007, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) modified the penalty structure leading not only to an immediate increase in the amount of citations received by operators, but also in the amount contested. While the method behind the assessment process is relatively transparent, the way in which the categories are chosen has proven to be illusory at best - both the reasoning and rationale seemingly differing from inspector to inspector and even inspection to inspection.

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