Main defends MSHA actions regarding UBB

March 28, 2012

Washington – Despite reports suggesting that more effective enforcement could have prevented the April 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia, Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joseph A. Main said he has not seen any facts that prove his agency could have stopped the deadly blast.

On March 27, members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee questioned Main on the reports highlighting MSHA’s shortcomings, and what the agency has done and will do to stop future tragedies.

Main admitted that MSHA could have done some things differently, but said the agency’s inspectors did their jobs to the best of their abilities. The agency conducted inspections and took samples in late March 2010 and found mine areas were in compliance, but conditions changed prior to the deadly explosion, he said.

“If an inspector had walked into that mine on April the fifth, found what was going on, they would have shut it down in a heartbeat,” Main said.

Also testifying during the hearing were NIOSH Associate Director for Mining Jeffery Kohler (.pdf file), Inspector General Counsel Howard Shapiro (.pdf file) and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts (.pdf file).