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    Preliminary report offers recommendations to improve mine safety

    April 22, 2010

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    Shortfalls in the current mine safety oversight system allow operators to engage in "dangerous" violations of the law and avoid penalties, according to a preliminary report (.pdf file) on the April 5 disaster that killed 29 miners in West Virginia.

    The report on the Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy was presented to President Barack Obama on April 15 by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. It outlines the available information on the blast, including rescue attempts and the mine owner's violation record. It also provides preliminary proposals for reforming mine safety law and practices. Among them:

    • Strengthen MSHA's capacity to investigate, prevent and punish violators
    • Enhance miners' ability to protect themselves
    • Resolve contested citation cases quicker
    A team of MSHA safety professionals from outside the area are conducting an investigation on the explosion and will issue a formal report. In related news, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis asked NIOSH Director John Howard to establish a team to conduct an independent analysis of MSHA's forthcoming internal review of its actions related to the explosion.

    MSHA also announced this week that it conducted an “inspection blitz” last weekend of 57 coal mines with a history of significant violations, among other factors. Inspection results had not been released as of deadline.

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