Congressional leaders propose new mine oversight measures

Workplace safety leaders in the House and Senate have proposed reforms intended to improve oversight of mines and empower workers in light of the Upper Big Branch Mine-South tragedy.

Although not yet introduced, a draft (.pdf file) of the Miner Safety and Health Act was released Tuesday by several congressional Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

According to the 100-page draft, the legislation would:

  • Alter the Mine Safety and Health Administration's pattern of violations process
  • Expand MSHA's authority to pursue injunctions and order training
  • Increase civil and criminal penalty amounts
  • Protect workers by strengthening whistleblower provisions and ensuring miners receive pay during safety-related mine closures
In related news, MSHA announced it began its underground investigation into the cause of the Upper Big Branch explosion. The investigation was delayed due to conditions from the blast.

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