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MSHA review describes enforcement mistakes at UBB

March 7, 2012

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Arlington, VA – Inspectors from the Mine Safety and Health Administration failed to identify critical deficiencies at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, but their actions did not cause the mine’s fatal 2010 explosion, according to an internal review released March 6.

The report (.pdf file) details several procedural missteps by MSHA District 4 personnel in the 18 months prior to the explosion: They failed to examine portions of the mine, missed accumulations of coal dust and flaws in the ventilation plan, and allowed then-operator Massey Energy to delay corrective action to reduce coal mine dust exposure.

The report tied MSHA’s shortcomings to depleted resources triggered by budget cuts, inspector inexperience, management turnover and deficiencies in the agency’s directive system.

“I don’t think there’s any question that MSHA could have done better,” agency administrator Joseph A. Main said during a teleconference on the report. “I don’t think there’s any question that we surely plan to do better in the future.”

The internal review follows MSHA’s report (.pdf file) on the explosion, which linked the blast to methane and excessive coal dust, echoing findings from other reports.

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