December 21, 2010
While I have affiliations with my employer and professional society, I write as a private citizen--one who has a M.S. in Safety Management and 32 yrs of progressive health and safety experience.
I actually favor mine safety disclosure on the annual 10(k)reports as a way of bringing a heightened awareness to mine safety. However, what I take issue with is that MSHA--under the current misguided operational philosophy--is making about 80% or more of all violations "significant and substantial" (SS) in an attempt to force non-caring mine owners to care more about workers' safety by hitting the owners in the wallet. The trouble with this is that you can not fine your way to true, lasting, meaningful safety. In addition, not only is a 80% SS rate not statistically justifiable, but some of the fines are ridiculous--such as $5000 for not reporting a serious incident within 15 minutes of occurrence (not easy to do when you are in a remote location with poor phone signals and are trying to gather basic, important facts before calling MSHA), $75,000 for a dirty portable toilet that was on schedule to be cleaned and was situated next to a clean toilet,$3500 for a faded sign, etc. In general, what is being fined does not correlate with how workers are getting injured--which tells me that MSHA is going after the wrong things in the wrong way. Even MSHA Inspectors have told me that, off-the-record, of course.
As a result, the court system is being clogged with appeals of these ridiculous fines--rendering the proposed 10(k)reporting inaccurate and certainly not "real time" until the appeals work their way through the system, which will take years.
Thank you for giving this citizen an opportunity to have input on this matter. Such freedom of speech and expression is one of the rights that makes our nation so great.