"Because MSHA management did not conduct rigorous root-cause analysis, the same deficiencies were identified on subsequent accountability reviews," the new IG report said.
In a response to the IG report, MSHA chief Joe Main took issue with a statement where IG investigators said, "By not providing adequate oversight of enforcement activities, MSHA potentially increases the risk that unsafe working conditions in mines will not be detected."
Main said that, "management oversight of accountability review activities, while very important, must be viewed within the context of the requirements in the Mine Act.
"It is important to note that Congress gave mine operators the primary responsibility to prevent unsafe working conditions and practices in mines," Main wrote. "MSHA is concerned that your description of the agency's oversight of enforcement activities obscures the statutory and regulatory responsibilities that mine operators have to address unsafe working conditions in mines."
In a reply, the IG wrote that, "Our statement and conclusion are based on the requirements of the Mine Act that describe MSHA's roles and responsibilities in setting safety and health standards, identifying instances of noncompliance and compelling mine operators to take timely corrective actions. These are integral components of the overall system for providing miners with a safe and healthy work environment."
In a prepared statement, Kline said of this issue, "While mine operators maintain primary responsibility for ensuring a safe workplace, MSHA has an obligation to enforce the law. Any attempt to downplay the critical role of effective enforcement policies in mine safety is a disservice to miners and their families."
A separate IG report, also made public this week, gave MSHA good marks for timely and adequate reviews of mine operator plans for providing safety training for miners. IG investigators said they found only "minor deficiencies" that they did not consider to be "indications of a systemic problem."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.