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Report criticizes MSHA complaint rules

Federal mine safety regulators take too long to investigate complaints about hazardous conditions in the nation’s mines, the Labor Department’s Inspector General has found.

A “significant number” of hazardous condition complaints filed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration were “not evaluated or inspected timely,” according to the report made public Tuesday.

“These delays may have subjected miners to prolonged hazardous conditions,” the report said.

The IG report called for improvements to ensure complaints are properly evaluated and investigated, and for more efforts to make miners aware of the complaint process.

The inspector general launched its probe of the complaint process in part because of this year’s increase in mining deaths.

So far, 38 coal miners have died in on the job nationwide, including the 12 who were killed in the Jan. 2 Sago Mine disaster.

In its report, the IG said 14 percent of the hazardous condition complaints filed with MSHA headquarters between Jan. 1, 2005 and March 30, 2006, were not evaluated in a timely fashion.

“Also, based on separate statistical samples of complaints filed with MSHA headquarters and the combined complaints filed with [the agency’s] 11 districts between January 1, 2005, and March 30, 2006, we estimated that 32 percent and 15 percent, respectively, took 2 or more days before an inspection was initiated following district notification by headquarters or filing with the district office,” the report said. “These delays may have subjected miners to prolonged hazardous conditions.”

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.


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