Mine Safety Health Administration to Publish Rule on Civil Penalty Assessments

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration will publish a proposed rule that would amend its existing civil penalty regulations by simplifying the criteria for assessing health and safety violations and increasing emphasis on more serious safety and health conditions, thus providing improved safety and health for miners. The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register, today, July 31.

MSHA's proposal is structured to encourage operators to be more accountable and proactive in addressing safety and health conditions at their mines. Under the proposal, total penalties proposed by MSHA and the distribution of the penalty amount by mine size would remain generally the same; however, the penalty amount for small metal and nonmetal mines would decrease. The existing minimum penalty of $112 and the maximum penalty of $70,000 for non-flagrant violations would not change, but minimum penalties for unwarrantable failure violations — that is, violations that constitute more than just ordinary negligence — would increase to provide a greater deterrent for mine operators who allow these violations to occur.

In early 2010, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine and Health Safety Joseph A. Main testified before Congress about the growing backlog of contested civil penalty cases. Among the solutions he proposed was making the evaluation and writing of citations simpler, more objective, clear and consistent. The following year, President Obama issued an Executive Order requiring agencies to review and simplify their regulations. The proposed rule is responsive to those concerns.

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