Underground coal mines account for just 4 percent of the operations MSHA monitors, but in fiscal year 2010, the agency issued 80,000 violations at them -- nearly half of the total 173,000 violations.
Main said those figures show mine operators need to step up.
The new rules require operators to not only examine their mines for dangerous conditions but also to record the actions taken to correct them. They also must do quarterly reviews with mine examiners on citations and orders issued in areas where pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations are required.
Main said that puts operators in a proactive rather than reactive stance.
"You either change the way you do business and fix the problem," he said, "or you keep doing what you've been doing to get the results you're getting."
Late last week, the National Mining Association's board of directors endorsed its own new program to encourage workplace safety, with the goal of ending fatalities within five years and reducing injury rates by 50 percent. Among the dozens of companies participating is Alpha.
NMA Chairman Frank McAllister, chief executive of Stillwater Mining, called the CORESafety initiative "an industry essential."
The association says CORESafety was developed over two years and focuses on preventing accidents.
It stresses continuous improvement in safety and health, NMA says, and shows "the determination and commitment of U.S. mining leaders to remain a model for the world."