Patton Boggs Insights - December 2012: Enforcement: MSHA Impact Inspections

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Stepping up enforcement at coal mines with alleged violations relating to respirable coal dust, MSHA targeted 13 operations in September under its impact inspection program that the agency contended had a history of respirable dust compliance problems. The inspections focused on respirable dust and on ventilation and dust control plans. MSHA has added respirable dust compliance to its criteria for impact inspections, thus assuring mines with similar alleged problems will be targeted in the future.

A total of 82 percent (123) of the 150 citations and 10 orders MSHA wrote during the September sweep were at coal mines. The remaining tickets went to three Metal/Non-Metal (M/NM) mines. During impact inspections in August, 11 Coal and four M/NM operations received 255 citations, 13 orders and two safeguards. Five of these mines ‒ four in Coal and one in M/NM ‒ have received at least five such inspections since the program began after the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in April 2010. Since then, MSHA has conducted 508 impact inspections and issued 8,950 citations, 875 orders and 38 safeguards.

Companies experiencing a large number of violations during impact or regular inspections should seek assistance from counsel to assure they don’t end up on MSHA’s potential pattern of violations list or develop a violation history that could lead to steep fines down the road. Contact Brian Hendrix, Bhendrix@pattonboggs.com or Peter Gould, PGould@pattonboggs.com.