his alert based on testimony delivered during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in Beckley, W.Va., in May that raised serious questions as to whether or not the Upper Big Branch mine was properly following ventilation standards prior to the explosion on April 5. The testimony from family members of miners who died in the April 5 explosion at Upper Big Branch mine indicated that concerns over safety conditions existed at the mine prior to the deadly blast.

“This announcement serves to remind all mine operators of their obligation to comply with all federal regulations to ensure the health and safety of their employees,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Failure to follow the ventilation standards can lead to illness, injury and death. These standards are not voluntary, and every mine operator in the country is on notice that MSHA will not tolerate violations of ventilation standards.”

In addition to reminding mine operators of their obligations under the law, Main said MSHA inspectors are being instructed to enhance enforcement efforts relating to violations of ventilation standards. “Mine inspectors are being instructed to beef up enforcement of ventilation standards,” he said.

The guidance covers intentional changes to a mine’s ventilation system and working face ventilation controls, and reiterates the prohibition on tampering with methane monitors. The guidance reminds operators of their obligations under current law.