Mine & Safety Administration Determined to Collect
Last Wednesday, the assistant secretary of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, David G. Zatezalo, announced that the Department of Labor would pursue unpaid fines “with every means under the law.” He also announced a stronger Scofflaw Program that would not only collect unpaid fines but promote the health and safety of the nation’s miners.
MSHA’s Scofflaw Program was created in 2007 to pursue unpaid fines. However, in the past ten years, about $67 million in delinquent penalties have gone unpaid. MSHA’s actions against these delinquent operators have not been commensurate. Since 2007, the administration has only issued 16 citations for failure to pay fines and have shut down five mines, while continuing to pay miners.
In 2010, following the explosion at southern West Virginia mine, the public learned that the operator already owed more than $1.3 million in penalties for mine safety violations. These uncollected fines have been a sore spot for MSHA, one that Zatezalo hopes to remedy with more aggressive tactics.
The Intelligencer Wheeling News Register published an op-ed by Zatezalo on March 6 in which he compared these unpaid fines to traffic violations: “American drivers understand that if they go over the speed limit and receive a ticket from a police officer, they must pay the fine that has been issued, or their driver’s license will be suspended. The laws for drivers, and the consequences of not paying fines, are clear to all.”
Mine Shutdowns Possible
Mines that fail to comply and pay their fines could be forced to temporarily cease production until the fines are paid. If monetary penalties still remain unpaid, then the mines will be forced to close. Zatezalo reinforced that miners would not go unpaid in the event of a shut-down.
He underlined how the rules and penalties in place are important in promoting safe and healthy workplaces, as well as preventing “mining accidents, illnesses, and injury for the more than 300,000 men and women who work in our nation’s mines.” If operators fail to pay, Zatezalo says they should expect to be pursued within every means of the law.
The Importance of Medical Surveillance Testing
Unsafe workplaces can put miners at risk of serious health effects. High levels of dust and other chemical particles can lead to severe respiratory damage including COPD, black lung, and progressive massive fibrosis. Keep your employees healthy and your workplace compliant with comprehensive medical testing.
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