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MSHA chief tells coal producers to improve safety

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coal producers must do more to prevent injuries and deaths in the nation's mines, the director of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday.

Mine operators need to find and prevent their own safety violations and do a better job training new employees, among other things, MSHA chief Joe Main told members of the West Virginia Coal Association.

Main's remarks come after the deadliest year in decades in U.S. coal mines. Forty-eight miners died in the nation's 1,500 coal mines in 2010, including 29 killed in an explosion at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine on April 5. The toll was the highest death toll since 55 were killed in 1992.

"We know how to prevent these deaths," Main said. "Mines all across this country operate every day while adhering to standard health and safety programs. We all know that and there's no reason that all mines shouldn't."

MSHA is in the process of amending several sets of safety regulations in response to the rule. But Main said surprise inspections at mines with poor safety records and hazardous conditions since the explosion have been highly successful. Through December, the "impact" inspections resulted in more than 4,100 citations at nearly 200 mines nationally.

Main said MSHA is trying to improve its own performance by training managers to make inspections more consistent and is evaluating pilot programs to test a simplified process for penalizing mines cited for violations.

"MSHA's trying to improve our own consistency in what we do," Main said.

 


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