The IG also examined MSHA's response to date to a report by a four-person panel appointed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to examine MSHA's actions. The panel concluded that MSHA likely could have prevented the disaster if agency officials have properly enforced ventilation standards and coal-dust limits.
Both the internal review and the independent panel report were issued a little more than a year ago, in March 2012.
In a separate, 39-page report also made public Tuesday, the IG concluded that MSHA has improved its enforcement of key standards meant to prevent roof falls at underground coal mines. The report is a follow-up review to a 2008 study that examined MSHA's performance at Murray Energy's Crandall Canyon Mine, where six miners and three rescue workers were killed in August 2007.
"The OIG found that MSHA's processes for reviewing, approving, and overseeing coal mine roof control plans have improved since our 2008 report because MSHA has developed guidance and checklists for reviewing and approving roof control plans, performed roof control plan reviews more frequently and undertook an effort to re-examine all roof control plans in effect at the time of the 2008 audit, issued policy regarding non-rescue activities and personnel on site during active rescue operations, and established a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bureau of Land Management to ensure information on mine conditions is shared," the IG report said.
But, IG investigators also found that some MSHA districts still operated under incomplete roof control plan review procedures, some district managers did not document the reasons for plan decisions, and MSHA enforcement personnel monitoring roof-control activities lacked required information to do that job.
MSHA responded by saying the agency "has significantly improved" its roof-control oversight, with special efforts focused on training for inspectors and roof-control specialists within the agency.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.