These impact inspections came on the heels of a directive issued by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main immediately following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., that instructed all district managers overseeing the nation’s coal mines to focus increased attention on mine ventilation, rock dusting, methane monitoring and mine examinations during all ongoing regular inspections.
“The purpose of these inspections is to provide assurance that no imminent dangers, explosions, hazards or other serious health or safety conditions and practices are present at these mines,” said Main. “Just last week, we pledged to the president that we will do whatever it takes to make sure another tragedy like the one that claimed 29 miners’ lives at Upper Big Branch never happens again.”
Depending upon mine size, as many as 10 inspectors were sent to each mine operation. They examined mechanized mining units at the selected mines, as well as the mines’ bleeder systems, belt entries and seals.
The 57 mines were selected based on their history of significant and/or repeat violations and focused on safety standards concerning methane, mine ventilation and rock dusting—the types of violations that can lead to mine accidents.
Mines in 10 states were the target of the inspection blitz: West Virginia (23 mines), Kentucky (14), Alabama (4), Illinois (3), Utah (3), Indiana (3), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), Tennessee (2) and Colorado (1). More than 275 coal mine enforcement personnel participated in the blitz.