A Resource Blog on MSHA and Above Ground Aggregate Mines

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Thanks for stopping by to take a look! We hope that you will find some useful information as you browse this site. We welcome you as part of this informal group where we can communicate about what is going on in the industry regarding MSHA. Please feel free to leave your comments (but remember that MSHA does read this site too.) To contact us through the phone or email with your stories and concerns, call Cary or Kathy Matthews, at 541-536-1771 or 541-410-4673 (Cary's cell). Our fax number is 541-536-1772. You can email us at: lapineredimixinc@hotmail.com

New blog posts are featured on this page, and other information is found by category by clicking on the pages links above.

We encourage you to join up with your local aggregate association, because there is strength in numbers. If there is not one in your area yet, please consider forming one.

Take care, and remember to be in contact with your state officials to voice your concerns about MSHA. Our tax dollars pay for MSHA, which is under the Department of Labor. Our fine money goes into the general fund, and we cannot afford to keep paying out costly fines on the more and more frequent trivial citations to essentially support government spending. At least that is how I feel about it.

~ Kathy


Saturday, July 24, 2010

"A Big Win for Aggregate Producers" Article by Katie E. Jeremiah

A Big Win for Aggregate Producers

Local aggregate producers had a big win on July 21, 2010, when the House Education and Labor Committee, considering laws designed to overhaul the Mine Safety Health Administration ("MSHA"), voted H.R. 5663 out of committee with a provision that specifically excludes most surface mines from the new Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act.

Regulators have been under intense pressure to tighten workplace safety regulations and impose tougher penalties on violators, following several recent and fatal coal mine disasters. Tension has been high between industry and lawmakers, as they seek to strike a balance between addressing workplace safety concerns and imposing costly requirements on contractors in order to encourage workplace safety.

MSHA has broad jurisdiction, ranging from expansive coal mining operations on the East Coast to small, family-owned gravel quarries in Oregon. Although coal mining in West Virginia is dramatically different from surface mine aggregate production in Oregon, local aggregate producers have been subject to the same stringent MSHA regulations.

Local operators and industry associations have been working diligently to educate lawmakers on the dramatic differences between surface and underground coal mining operations. The amendments that were voted out of committee proved that lobbying efforts were successful in demonstrating that regulating these two types of mining operations under the same law would not be practical.

If surface mining had not been excluded from this legislation, operators could have faced stiff civil and criminal penalties of up to $2 million and imprisonment for up to 10 years for violations. This is not to say that legislators will not draft subsequent laws with similar penalties specifically targeting surface mine operations. Local aggregate producers can find some comfort in knowing that for the time being they are excluded from the current draft of the MSHA reform legislation.

Published Summer 2010
This article is intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. It is not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

Explanation by NSSGA's President Jennifer Joy Wilson: Underground and Above Ground Mines Separated in New Leglislation:

In what I would call at the least, an unexpected turnaround in approach, Chairman George Miller, following an NSSGA delegation meeting early yesterday evening, decided by 11:25pm last night to include a carve-out for all mining sectors including aggregates, from his bill.  His bill being marked up in the full House Education and Labor Committee today ONLY applies to underground coal and other underground mining with flammable gases.  The Committee just adjourned until 2pm when the roll call votes will occur (a presidential signing ceremony drew some of the committee Members away).

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) opposed the carve-out, asking if it wouldn’t be more fair for any changes to MSHA law to apply to all mining sectors.  He was answered by Rep. David Wu (D-OR) who responded that he’d work with Price if Price wanted to include sand and gravel.   No other comments supporting Price’s point were made. 

This therefore is a significant victory for NSSGA leadership (especially the GA division-S&H Committee Task Force, the S&H Committee and ESH division leadership, some great input by Council of Counsel members and state association partners; the NSSGA staff who brought together the ad-hoc national coalition and have worked tirelessly with NSSGA member “weekend warriors” to exchange inputs back and forth with the also tireless committee staff).  Most important, we are grateful for all the critical grassroots and ‘grasstops’ calls from member after member, including non-members’ calls rallied at our request by the state aggregate associations.  We’ll you’re your help for similar if not more constituent support in the Senate.

NSSGA has removed from our legislative action center, our Action Alert to oppose the bill as amended by the Chairman’s mark (his amendment in the nature of a substitute).  We have not suggested support for the remnant bill (we would defer to the coal industry and NMA on how the amended provisions, which NSSGA has been reacting to and addressing throughout these past weeks/weekends and late evenings/early mornings,  impact the underground coal sector).

Commendations and gratitude to the down to earth eloquence and impactful reality check provided in person by our NSSGA member leaders,  who also up-ended their schedules yesterday to participate in the last-minute meeting with Chairman Miller:  Dave Thomey, Jim Venesky, and Mike Heenan.  I am so proud also of Joe Casper and Pam Whitted, of their teammates here in HQ and many many others that deserve our thanks.

I want to assure you, NSSGA never justified our position by defaming or scapegoating coal or any other industry sector. 

We based our position that none of this should apply to us, which we reiterated to the Chairman last evening in person and then by letter still later in the evening, to him and to all members on the committee as well as their appropriate staff .  To the letter we attached legal analysis of recent changes as well as our hearing statement, our hearing Statement, and language for a legislative approach (special thanks to Mark Savit) to carve us out by targeting the bill’s application to highest risk sector/operations,  because:

            a) aggregates achieved record safety and health levels in 09: our sector doesn’t deserve to be punished for those remarkable achievements and strong commitment to S&H improvements in future,

            b) aggregates operations were not and are not the provocation for the legislation; our risk profile is inherently different from other industries due to the nature of materials sought:  our underground stone mines don’t have flammable gases, or combustible dust; our underground stone mines are cavernous and stable vs. tunnels, etc.

            c) aggregates businesses coast to coast have been hit hard by the recession; our construction materials relate to the construction industries’ markets, and those industries continue to experience depression-level unemployment; 

            d) companies whose production is already cut way back, are already experiencing dramatically increased penalties despite record safety and health achievements, and are further deeply concerned by current inconsistent MSHA enforcement.  (Among many comments by the NSSGA delegation to the Chairman last evening, I explained that even  Joe Main declared a top priority of his is to resolve inconsistent enforcement…that NSSGA was working with MSHA to help identify and clarify ambiguities.) Therefore imposition of such new and far-reaching requirements on already heavily regulated companies so hard hit by recession and regulation, but also who are achieving great progress in S&H, could force some companies to reach a tipping point…risking more job losses etc.

Despite Ranking GOP member Kline (R-MN) remarks in his opening statement that the Republicans want the bill focused on worst offenders, there is no specific roll call vote to show bipartisan support for the carve-out in the Chairman’s mark.  Democrats on the Committee have thus far have opposed GOP attempts to remove OSHA from the bill. 

We will issue a press release after the Committee completes its voting.

Best regards and congratulations on your leadership, Joy

Jennifer Joy Wilson, President and CEO
National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
1605 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia  22314
(703) 525-8788 - ph; (703) 525-7782 - fx

For actual voting HR 5663 voting records:  
HR 5663 Voting Records 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HR 5663 Hearing Info:

On July 13, 2010, the Dept. of Labor began holding hearings on HR 5663.  On July 21, 2010, the bill was voted on.  One important thing decided was that the new changes apply only to underground coal mines.  Metal/Non-Metal and surface mines were excluded.

Here is the link to the results:

HR 5663 Votes and Results

Before and during the hearing links:

HR 5663 Bill and Summary (proposed)

HR 5663 Hearings

Letter from CWS Against HR5663

CWS Testifys

Thank you to Jim Sharpe from Sharpes Point for the following article:

Refocus MSHA Priorities, Enzi Tells Solis

The ranking minority member of MSHA’s oversight committee in the Senate has linked staffing issues at the Agency with recently uncovered training and enforcement program problems and suggested “deficiencies” in staff, training or enforcement may have played a role in the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) mine disaster.

Commenting that he was “very concerned about management issues” at MSHA, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said he believed some of the problems may be associated with a “significant number of senior management positions in the career ranks” being either vacant or staffed by acting personnel. 

Enzi, who sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, expressed his views in a two-page letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Wednesday.

Enzi noted that, at the time of the UBB disaster April 5, at least six senior positions were vacant or filled by acting staff, including the Deputy Administrator for Coal and the Coal Division’s Accident Investigation unit supervisor.  “With accident investigations involving multiple fatalities ongoing, including that for Upper Big Branch, it is certainly not helpful that there is no permanent supervisor,” Enzi said.

Enzi also noted that it appeared as though “the entire leadership of the Metal/Non-Metal Division is transitory,” while persons in acting status fill jobs as head of Technical Support and the Solicitor’s Office. Referring to all the staffing positions, Enzi said, “These positions exist so that the Department is able to provide critically important leadership, support and oversight of its field inspection personnel.”

Enzi’s letter included an attachment that consisted of MSHA responses to staffing questions senators raised after a hearing in April. MSHA said the Deputy Coal Administrator position has been vacant since November 2008, but is currently held on an acting basis by Charles J. Thomas.  A vacancy announcement for the Senior Executive Service (SES) position ended June 1.  Coal’s Accident Investigation supervisory post has been vacant since August 2008, and is currently filled by Terry Bentley.  No vacancy announcement has been posted.  

As Enzi noted, the situation is even worse in M/NM.  Besides the Administrator’s job, an SES position being held now in an acting capacity by Neal Merrifield, four other top jobs in the Division are filled by acting personnel: Deputy Administrator, Mike Hancher; Accident Investigation unit supervisor, Michael Franklin; Chief of Health, Chris Findlay; and Management Office director, Christine Mayhugh. 

Merrifield’s position has been vacant since January 2010, the opening has been posted, and MSHA is currently reviewed qualified applicants, MSHA said. 

The Acting Director of Tech Support is Linda Zeiler.  The SES position has been vacant for a year, and no vacancy announcement has been posted.  Heidi Strassler fills the top position in an acting capacity in mine safety and health in the Office of the Solicitor.    

In addition, although unmentioned in Enzi’s letter, Michael Schimmenti has stepped in as acting Director of Administration and Management, a position lacking a permanent director since February 2009.  A panel is currently reviewing applicants for the SES position, MSHA said in its response to lawmakers.  Other top-level acting positions include Pete Montali in the Office of Accountability and Tom Kessler in Educational Policy and Development.

In addition, the crucial No. 3 job at the Agency, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations, also remains unfilled since the position was vacated by Mike Davis April 30.  Jeff Duncan fills in as acting Chief of Staff.  “[T]he agency’s short staffing is an issue the Committee has to review,” Enzi said.

Linkage to Critical Reviews

Enzi suggested the staffing issues may be linked to two recent reports by the Labor Department’s Inspector General (IG) critical of inspector training and the management of the Agency’s pattern of violation (POV) enforcement weapon.  He also suggested a possible linkage with UBB.  He asked Solis to direct the internal review team investigating MSHA’s role in the tragedy “to consider whether any of these deficiencies may have played a role in MSHA”s inability to detect or prevent the problems that led to the tragedy at Upper Big Branch.”

The training audit, released in March, revealed that 56% of 102 inspectors the audit team interviewed had not completed MSHA’s required training during the fiscal year 2006-07 training cycle, and that the Agency lacked controls to track and assure completion of such training. 

Preliminary findings from an audit of the POV program, released last week, found that the Agency had dropped nine West Virginia coal mines from its potential POV list in March 2009 due to “resource constraints.”  The audit was requested by several lawmakers after Sharpe’s Point pointed out that UBB had met MSHA’s criteria for inclusion on the potential POV list during the fall 2009 cycle.  MSHA agreed, but attributed the mine’s exclusion to a “computer glitch,” a determination that aroused lawmakers’ concern.

The senator called on Solis to commit to remedying the training issues and to fill the empty staff positions with qualified career personnel.  He asked for an update on the current staffing situation and monthly status reports.

Enzi also raised concern about “MSHA’s overall priorities” in light of the staffing, training and enforcement matters.  He noted that MSHA, in hearings and Capitol Hill staff briefings, had suggested it was developing a list of recommended legislative changes. “While I appreciate the input,” Enzi told Solis, “I believe MSHA should currently be focusing on fulfilling its existing obligations using its existing authority . . .”

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Education and Labor released a 70-page mine reform bill that appeared to include many of the legislative priorities the Agency is seeking.

Copyright 2010, Sharpe Media, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

MSHA SMO Workshop:

Mine Operators,

The Small Mine Office of MSHA will be providing a workshop geared toward improving contractor safety and compliance at mine sites.  Please pass the attached information on to your contractors and encourage them to enroll in the workshop on August 31st in Wilsonville, Oregon at the Associated General Contractors building.  If your mine would like a compliance visit from the Small Mine Office, respond to this email and I will give you a call to schedule an appointment.  

Thank you,

Evan Church
1815 14th Street, S.E.
Albany, OR 97321
Telephone: (541) 270-4878
Fax: (541) 924-8499

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thank you to Genoa Ingram and NSSGA for this important info:


CongressionalDemocrats Introduce Partisan Mine Safety Legislation; 
Bill Would Lump Aggregates Operations In With Coal Mine

- Plan To Rush The Bill Through The House Before End Of July -

Partisan mine safety legislation entitled the "Miner Safety and 
Health Act of 2010," H.R. 5663, was introduced on July 1 by 
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller 
(D-CA) and 17 Democratic co-sponsors (see below for complete list.)  
This bill makes no distinction between aggregates and the coal industry, 
posing a significant threat to our industry, which has shown a consistently 
improving safety record and a strong commitment to the safety of our employees.

Companion legislation from Senate Health, Education, Labor and 
Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), 
Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) 
is anticipated.  Senate HELP Committee members  
Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) issued a 
statement protesting that mine safety, traditionally a bipartisan goal, 
has become partisan with Republicans shut out of discussions. 

The House Education and Labor Committee plans a July 13 hearing 
on the legislation and a July 15 markup of the bill.  This indicates the 
intent to rush this to a House floor vote sometime the following week 
before the House leaves for the August congressional recess.


Following the tragic coal mine disaster in West Virginia on April 5th, 
the Executive Branch response, led by President Obama, has been that 
accountability is needed of both mine operators and the government. 
The president has stated that he looks forward to a full investigation 
of the disaster and (recognizing the pointed criticism that's been leveled 
at MSHA) he wants a review of the agency's operations.  Click for full text here.

On Capitol Hill, both the House and Senate held hearings on mine 
safety pursuant to the West Virginia tragedy and NSSGA submitted 
statements for the record.  NSSGA continues to meet with members 
of Congress and has been engaged in other efforts to impress upon 
them the differences between coal and aggregates production.

Preliminary review of the "discussion draft" of this bill suggests it is 
wrong-headed legislation in many ways - so much so that, despite all 
sympathies that we share for the victims of the West Virginia coal mine 
disaster and their families, this bill must not be enacted into law in its 
current form.  It is clear that this sweeping measure would, if enacted, 
pose a substantial threat to aggregates operators that could  
close facilities, bankrupt companies and even send corporate 
officers to jail. While the measure was described in benign terms as 
targeting "recidivist offenders" of mine safety rules, this bill as introduced 
will hit all operators very hard.

Among the most serious provisions are the following:
Overhaul of the pattern of violations to clarify ambiguity and to ensure  
that the nation's most dangerous mine operations improve safety dramatically
is laudable, but the pattern system contained in this bill is vague, penalties 
are doubled while a mine is on pattern status; the language states that - once 
a mine is placed on pattern - the entire mine would be shut down until it complies 
with an MSHA remediation order.   

The expansion of the definition of Significant and Substantial (S&S) to be 
applicable "if there is a reasonable possibility that such violation could result in 
injury, illness, or death" eliminates the requirement that an S&S violation 
be of a "reasonably serious nature" and could render most violations as warranting
S&S classification.  

Increases in maximum criminal and civil penalties, e.g., maximum civil penalty 
for S&S increases to $150,000.    

Reduces the threshold for criminal liability from "willful" to "knowing;" 
this is not defined and a first violation is now a felony; advance notice of inspections 
would become a felony.  

Charges pre-judgment interest (rather than escrow payments) for challenged 

Provides for injunctive relief allowing the Secretary of Labor to close a facility 
if he or she determines there is "a course of conduct that in the judgment of the 
Secretary constitutes a continuing hazard to the Health or Safety of miners,
including violations of this Act or of mandatory Health and Safety standards 
or regulations under this Act."  

Expands Section 110(c) provisions dealing with personal liability to any officers, 
directors and agents of the company.


    Visit NSSGA's Legislative Action Center and find out how you can 
    connect with your members of Congress at their state and district offices!  

    Please make every effort possible to meet with or call your members of Congress 
    during the Fourth of July recess as this legislation is likely to reach the House 
    floor quickly.  Tell them:

    "One size does not fit all" when it comes to mine safety;  

    The aggregates industry has a decade's worth of demonstrated 
    commitment to safety;  

    The industry has a very good safety record;  

    Dramatic increases in penalty assessments just four years 
    after passage of the MINER Act will likely have the effect of 
    under-cutting work towards safety in the workplace; and  

    The additional regulatory burdens requiring a focus on items 
    that won't necessarily improve safety might actually make operations 
    less safe, not more, for our industry's employees.

      On April 8, Past NSSGA Chairman Louis Griesemer of Springfield 
      Underground was interviewed by his local NBC News affiliate and he 
      did an exemplary job of stating the aggregates industry's case 
      effectively and convincingly.  Please click on the following link to view Louis' 
      interview at http://www.ky3.com/news/local/90317357.html.


      How Underground Aggregates (Stone) Mines 
      Differ from Other Underground Mines

      NOTE: Of the more than 10,000 aggregates facilities nationwide, 
      only about one percent operate underground. 

      Extracted aggregate product is non-combustible and non-flammable; 

      No flammable gases such as methane are present; 

      Most underground aggregate facilities are only a few hundred feet deep; 

      The stable geologic formations result in a minimized need for additional 
      roof supports; 

      MSHA-approved (permissible) equipment is not required in stone facilities 
      such that automobiles, haul trucks and loaders can be used; 

      Extraction methods create large open spaces for easy access by oversized 
      mobile equipment; 

      Large mine openings accommodate emergency equipment used by outside 
      emergency services; 

      Increased ventilation due to large open spaces and different geology eliminates 
      combustible dust potential; 

      No rail man-ways or vertical man-lifts are needed to transport employees 
      to/from working face of mine; standard modes of wheeled transportation apply 

      Emergency escape and access is easier because of larger spaces in facility; 

      Minimal need for certified mine rescue teams because local fire departments, 
      or emergency services, are able to respond;   

      Due to size of large open spaces, mining methods do not require 
      remote-controlled operation of mining equipment; 

      Mechanical mine ventilation usually not required or is minimal; 
      natural ventilation works well.

                                List of House Co-Sponsors of H.R. 5663 - 
                                "Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010"

                                Rep Andrews, Robert E. [D-NJ-1]Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [D-NY-1] 
                                Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-11]Rep Courtney, Joe [D-CT-2] 
                                Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-7]Rep Hare, Phil [D-IL-17] 
                                Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [D-HI-2]Rep Holt, Rush D. [D-NJ-12] 
                                Rep Kildee, Dale E. [D-MI-5]  Rep. Miller, George [D-CA-7] 
                                Rep Mollohan, Alan B. [D-WV-1]Rep Pierluisi, Pedro R. [D-PR] 
                                Rep Rahall, Nick J., II [D-WV-3]Rep Sestak, Joe [D-PA-7] 
                                Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [D-NH-1]Rep Shuler, Heath [D-NC-11] 
                                Rep Sutton, Betty [D-OH-13]Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [D-CA-6]

                                Sunday, July 4, 2010

                                New Propsed Legislation Coming Up IMMEDIATELY:

                                First Glimpse of Mine Safety Bill Discussion Draft Poses Challenge
                                After initial review of the discussion draft of Mine Safety legislation unveiled Tuesday in the House Committee on Education and Labor, it is clear that this wide-ranging measure would, if enacted, pose substantial challenges to aggregates operators.  NSSGA has learned that a Committee hearing will be held shortly after the July 4th recess.  Following that, a mark-up (or vote) will be held, and the bill could proceed to the House floor as early as late July.  While the measure was described as targeting recidivist offenders of mine safety rules….this draft bill looks like it will hit all operators very hard.

                                Among the most serious provisions are the following:

                                - Overhaul of the pattern of violations to clarify ambiguity and to ensure that the nation’s most dangerous mine operations improve safety dramatically but pattern system is vague, penalties are doubled while mine is on pattern status; the language states that – once a mine is placed on pattern – the entire mine would be shut down until it complies with an MSHA remediation order.

                                - Extension of subpoena power to “any of the functions under this Act;” no criteria or limitations for use of subpoena power.

                                - Expansion of the definition of S&S to apply “if there is a reasonable possibility that such violation could result in injury, illness, or death;” this eliminates the requirement that an S&S violation be of a “reasonably serious nature;” this could render most violations as warranting S&S classification.

                                - General prohibition that attorneys used by operators for defense against alleged violations from being used by operator company employees, as well.

                                - Requirement that operators include contractors in injury and illness reports.

                                - Increases in maximum criminal and civil penalties, e.g., maximum civil penalty for S&S increases to $150,000.

                                - Reduction in the threshold for criminal liability from “willful” to “knowing;” this is not defined, first violation is now a felony, advance notice of inspections would be become a felony.

                                -  Increases MSHA’s accountability by requiring an independent investigation of accidents in which three or more miners die; also it would require pre-shift reviews of conditions and communications to ensure that appropriate safety information is transmitted.

                                - Increases in penalties for retaliation against whistleblowers.

                                - Charge of pre-judgment interest (rather than escrow payments) for challenged citations.

                                - Provision of injunctive relief for a “continuing hazard.”

                                - Expansion of Section 110 © provisions dealing with personal liability to any officers, directors and agents of the company.

                                While NSSGA looks to soon provide further reporting and analysis of the potential impacts of the bill, we also welcome any comments or technical analysis that individual members would like to share as soon as possible.  I can be reached at (703) 526-1074 / jcasper@nssga.org.  However, in the wake of the April 5 coal disaster that spawned this action, it’s difficult to envision a way in which this vehicle could foster further improvements in aggregates industry worker safety and health.

                                Joseph S. Casper
                                Vice President, Safety Services
                                National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association
                                1605 King Street
                                Alexandria, Virginia 22314
                                (703) 526-1074
                                (703) 525-7782 (fax)

                                Tuesday, June 29, 2010

                                News from MSHA's Neal Merrifield:

                                MSHA is taking a number of steps to address consistency related to compliance and policy concerns at Metal/Non-Metal (M/NM) mines.  A new section of our website, Compliance and Policy Updates, http://www.msha.gov/SiteIndex/MNMSiteIndex.asp has been established to address compliance and policy issues.  To date we have placed two new documents:

                                1 - “Guarding Conveyor Belts at Metal and Nonmetal Mines”.  This guide supplements existing guarding guidance contained in "MSHA's Guide to Equipment Guarding" issued in 2004, and in MSHA’s existing Program Policy Manual.  A PowerPoint (.PPT) version of the presentation is attached – please note that explanatory notes are provided for almost every slide.  In addition, a link to a .PDF version of the same presentation can be found on MSHA’s website; a link follows:  http://www.msha.gov/Accident_Prevention/EquipmentGuardingConveyorBelts2010.pdf

                                2 - A Program Information Bulletin (PIB) provides information on providing safe means of access, fall prevention, and fall protection to miners operating, conducting maintenance or service activities, or accessing work platforms of self-propelled mobile equipment.  A link to its location on MSHA’s website follows:  http://www.msha.gov/REGS/COMPLIAN/Pib/2010/pib10-04.asp

                                Please draw these resources to the attention of other interested parties in the metal and nonmetal mining industry.

                                We will place additional documents on this site as compliance and policy questions arise.  In order to keep up to date on any new postings please sign up for email notification at http://www.msha.gov/subscriptions/subscribe.aspx.

                                Neal Merrifield

                                Wednesday, June 23, 2010

                                Link to June 2010 Aggregates Manager Srttcle on MSHA Audit:

                                June 1, 2010 |

                                AggBeat: The heat is on MSHA

                                An audit by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General reveals that 56 percent of ‘experienced’ journeymen MSHA inspectors aren’t trained properly.

                                By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor


                                Tuesday, June 22, 2010

                                Citizen Survey Being Considered:

                                Oregon Independent Aggregate Association is considering working in collaboration with Washington State University in conducting a citizen survey on MSHA that will include operators from the Pacific Northwest.

                                The thought here is that if non-biased professionals put together a report that represents the voices of mine owners and operators, drilling and crushing companies, then perhaps two things will happen: a) MSHA will recognize the areas that need improvement and address them and, b) Our government officials will have hard data describing the problems that we are having with MSHA.

                                WSU recently completed a similar survey for the Washington State Patrol, if you would like to view that link:

                                Washington State Patrol Citizen Survey http://www.wsp.wa.gov/publications/reports/citizen07.pdf

                                Please give your input on this idea by calling the OIAA Board Members at the bottom of the page, or emailing us at: OIAA2008@hotmail.com

                                Thank you!

                                DJC Article by Katie Jeremiah:

                                Aggregate producers, coal mining companies feel the heat of safety enforcement

                                Katie Jeremiah
                                Katie Jeremiah

                                Regulators are under intense pressure to tighten workplace safety regulations and impose tougher penalties on violators, following several recent fatal coal mine disasters. Tensions are high between industry and lawmakers, as they seek to strike a balance between addressing workplace safety concerns and imposing costly - sometimes economic “death knell” - requirements on contractors in order to encourage workplace safety.

                                The Mine Safety and Health Administration has broad jurisdiction, ranging from expansive coal mining operations on the East Coast to small, family-owned gravel quarries in Oregon. Although coal mining in Pennsylvania is dramatically different from aggregate production in Oregon, local operators are subject to the same stringent MSHA regulations.

                                But MSHA’s rules offer little guidance to operators. It is impossible to distinguish operational and enforced requirements necessary for compliance in a quarry setting as opposed to subsurface coal mine operations. The lack of specific guidance gives MSHA unfettered discretion to enforce safety rules, which makes citations a near certainty during inspections.

                                In addition, operators are concerned that the enforcement climate has become too focused on the quantity and gravity of citations, rather than on a cooperative effort to create safer work environments. They have accused MSHA of operating with performance metrics that include secret enforcement quotas. MSHA denies these allegations.

                                Fatalities continue to occur despite increases in citations and penalties. Recent data compiled by an Oregon industry group suggests that even with the recent surge in citations since 2006, there has not been an effective or measurable redirection in workplace injuries or fatalities.

                                So, how should mine operators comply?

                                MSHA’s penalty structure imposes serious consequences on operators with multiple violations, no matter how trivial each citation may be. Operators must be diligent in their efforts to provide safe workplaces, to comply with current MSHA regulations, and to prepare for a tougher enforcement regime. To avoid the severe civil and criminal penalties imposed by current MSHA regulations and to prepare for reform, operators must:

                                1. Educate workers on MSHA’s “Rules to Live By.” MSHA recently published a new fatality prevention initiative that focuses on 24 frequently cited standards, 13 of which are for metal/nonmetal mining.

                                2. Study the MSHA handbook series. Recent citations have been issued in Oregon for violations that may not otherwise fall under the “common sense” test. Operators should study the MSHA handbook series available at www.msha.gov/readroom/handbook/handbook.htm. The handbooks provide specific information that may be used by inspectors to identify MSHA violations in a quarry.

                                3. Report accidents to MSHA immediately. Operators who do not notify MSHA of an accident that has “reasonable potential to cause death” can face up to $60,000 in penalties. Train workers on the procedures to call for help and contact MSHA in the event of an emergency.

                                4. Give the inspector documents only upon request and a showing that it is required by law. If an inspector requests records, ask which rule requires the document to be produced. Most records do not have to be produced at the inspection, and a reasonable time is allowed for production of documents to MSHA after the inspection. Some records do not have to be produced at all.

                                5. Remedy unsafe conditions as soon as they are discovered. Operators face significant penalties for failure to abate a hazard that has been cited by an inspector. Even if a citation is contested, if a subsequent inspection cites the same unsafe conditions, the prior citation will be used to show that the operator was on notice and could provide a basis for an “unwarrantable failure” citation.

                                6. Don’t argue with the inspector. An argument with an inspector is ineffective and usually detrimental. An inflamed inspector may increase the gravity of a citation. Always remember that anything people say can and will be used against them in court, while silence is not an admission and can never be used against them. Save arguments for the contest of the citation after legal arguments have been organized.

                                7. Don’t lie. Lying provides MSHA with a basis for criminal prosecution. This extends to oral statements as well as falsified documents.

                                8. Contest a citation if it is unfounded, no matter how minor the penalty. People have a constitutional right to due process. If there is a valid reason to contest a citation, contest it. Even if the citation involves only a few hundred dollars, it could mean a total mine shutdown if multiple citations are issued over time.

                                9. Continue educating workers and site visitors on the law. Make sure every person on the site has access to a copy of the MSHA laws, the MSHA Program policy manual, and the MSHA handbook. Moreover, workers should have a thorough understanding of the standards and how they apply to a worksite.

                                With new MSHA reform in the pipeline, it is important to know the current law and how new legislation will impact operations. If a citation is issued on a work site, contact an attorney to discuss options to avoid significant civil and criminal penalties.

                                Katie Jeremiah is an attorney in Jordan Schrader Ramis’ Dirt Law practice group. She assists clients in matters involving construction and mining law. Contact her at 503-598-5539 or katie.jeremiah@jordanschrader.com.

                                Thursday, June 17, 2010

                                Important Info:

                                I received this email from Attorney Katie Jeremiah on June 14th.  Thank you, Katie, for this valuable information, and the compliments!
                                Hi Kathy,
                                I am an attorney at Jordan Schrader Ramis PC and a partner in a drilling/blasting/crushing company out of Eugene (BJ Equipment Co LLC).  After seeing my family business tread through the trials and tribulations of MSHA regulation, I am focusing my practice area on MSHA issues that Oregon quarry operators face. 
                                Your website has come up several times in my research, and I just wanted to introduce myself and share some information that I found today that might be useful to share with the visitors on your website.
                                The biggest frustration I have seen quarry operators have in recent years is the lack of guidance on specific compliance measures that should be taken.  MSHA inspectors show up to a site and seem to arbitrarily issue citations and cite guidelines that no one knew existed.  
                                I ran across some handbooks that are somewhat hidden on MSHA's website but provide extremely detailed information on haul road construction, lunchroom facility rules (such as hand washing stations, covered trash receptacles, changing stations, etc), etc. that I never knew existed aside from speaking with people who were cited for violating the rules.  It appears that they may be what the inspectors are supposed to use.  I may be the last to know about them, but I have never seen them or heard anyone talk about them.
                                The "PH06-IV-1(1) "Metal and Nonmetal Health Inspection Procedures" within that list has great guidance documents.

                                There is another one on break rooms and toilet facilities:  http://www.msha.gov/READROOM/HANDBOOK/MNMInspChapters/Chapter20.pdf
                                Thank you for all of the great work on your website!! 
                                KATIE JEREMIAH | Attorney
                                Jordan Schrader Ramis PC | Attorneys at Law, Lake Oswego
                                Oregon:  (503) 598-7070
                                Direct Dial:  (503) 598-5539
                                Washington:  (360) 567-3900

                                Thursday, June 10, 2010

                                Tuesday, May 18, 2010

                                "MP Man Arrested at Gunpoint" by Mary Schamehorn, Editor of The Myrle Point Herald:

                                "Two men have Francis Schrader at gunpoint."

                                That was the 9-1-1 call that came in shortly before 10 a.m. last Tuesday.  

                                When an officer from the Myrtle Point Police Department arrived on the scene at 433 Railroad Avenue, it turned out that the "armed subjects" were agents from the U.S. Marshal's office who were arresting the 65-year old man on outstanding warrants.

                                The arrest involved Schrader's failure to appear after being cited for safety violations at his All Coast Concrete rock pit east of Myrtle Point.

                                Schrader was taken to federal court in Eugene where he was jailed and later released.

                                The first person the Herald spoke with, at the court house in Eugene, said originally it was a civil case, but it became a criminal matter when Schrader failed to appear at the show cause hearing.

                                At his May 4 appearance in federal court, Schrader declined the appointment of counsel, telling the court that he would represent himself.

                                Reading from the court docket, a spokesman for the U.S. District Clerk's office said "the parties were ordered to confer regarding resolution of proceedings.  Following conferral, government agrees to provide defendant with copies of the citations and court-ordered conditions which would allow him to continue to mining (for rock)."

                                A civil case was filed in January for safety violations under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.  He was given until Tuesday (May 11) to decide whether or not he wants to continue mining and will advise the government by that date of his decision.  During the week between May 4 and 11, he agreed not to mine.  He was later released on his own recognizance and returned to Myrtle Point. 

                                At press time, the Herald had not learn of his decision.

                                Mike Shimizu, Seattle, regional director of public affairs for the U.S. Labor Department, told the Herald he could not give the paper much information as the case is still "an open investigation."

                                "It does involve conditions under the Mine Safety and Health Act that he has refused to respond to.  Inspectors have been out to his rock pit, and he refused to abate some of the conditions that we cited,"  Shimizu said.  

                                He would not confirm if this were a routine inspection or if it came as a result of a complaint.

                                Schrader told the Hearld that he had "hundreds of pages of tickets.  I laughed at them.  I got thrown in jail for a few hours.  It's the principal of the thing," he said.

                                "Are your prepared to die today for your liberties?  Several people in Myrtle Point witnessed ...a Gestapo act of terrorism and the kidnapping of an American citizen for a for-profit corporation,"  Schrader said.  See Schrader's letter to the editor below.

                                "Schrader Describes Arrest for Rock Pit Violations"

                                This was a letter to the editor in the Myrtle Point Herald, in the small town of  Myrtle Point, Oregon earlier this month, and is written by 65-year-old Francis Schrader, the owner of All Coast Concrete.

                                To the editor:

                                "Are you prepared to die for your liberties?  Several people, in Myrtle Point, witnessed, on May 4 at about 10 a.m. a Gestapo act of terrorism and the kidnapping of an American Citizen by a for-profit corporation.  The Myrtle Point citizen on the street or near the mini-mart near Railroad Avenue were at risk of being shot or killed during this assault.

                                An American citizen was called three times by phone and lied to on each call.  This citizen was told that there had been an accident and damage done to the citizen's parked truck by a man called Jim Roberts.  The person on the phone said he got the cell phone number off the door on the damaged truck.  He said he had to soon leave town, but wanted to settle the damages first, in cash, and he asked for the citizen to come to the dump truck.

                                When the citizen arrived at the dump truck at around 10 a.m., he found no damage and nobody around.  He suddenly saw two plainclothes me running toward him from about 150 feet away, yelling, one of which was pointing a revolver in his direction.  He was told to get on his hands out of his pockets, turn around, and hands behind his back.  The 65-year-old citizen was taken to the pavement by two men in their 30's, from behind, and handcuffed.  They refused to give any identification as to who they were.  They then began picking up all the papers and personal items that had flown from the citizen's pocket during the attack.

                                A neighbor, thinking this was a mugging, robbery, and/or kidnapping, called 9-1-1.  The Myrtle Point police officer that arrived on the scene ask them two times while his gun was pointed at them what was going on and who they were.  At first they ignored him.  At this point, the citizen was in the line of fire.  Finally, arrogantly, they replied that they were U.S. Marshals, at which time the Myrtle Point officer forced them to show identification.

                                The guns were lowered and the citizen was hauled to the U.S. District Court in Eugene.

                                The people of Myrtle Point were in great danger if shots had been exchanged.  The Myrtle Point police officer did a very professional job of protecting the citizen.  Thank you.  There was no reason to approach the citizen in the manner they did, as he did not even have a traffic ticket on his record!

                                Could this happen to you?  This citizen hopes not.  When one stands up for what is right and true, the allege government does not like it.  Fear is the weapon they use.  This citizen is not buying their bullying tactics.

                                This is all over whether I have the right to work in my rock pit without their jurisdiction, as if this citizen does not know how to take care of himself.  The Mine Safety and Health Administration, better known to rock pit owners and workers as MSHA, is behind it all.  

                                This citizen has the creator as his Lord and Savior.  He will not submit to such tyranny with the Kind of the universe by his side.  I covet the prayers of all who stand for truth, love and liberty."

                                Francis Richard Schrader, Sovereign American, 
                                Myrtle Point, republic of Oregon

                                May 24th Workshop in Kent, Washington:

                                2.5  Hour MSHA WORKSHOP HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR:
                                MONDAY,  MAY 24TH @ 9:00am - 11:30am

                                MSHA requested to reschedule the workshop for Monday, May 24th and we indicated we would advise once we had all planning and commitments in place.  SAME LOCATION as prior notice, please see below for more details. 
                                Everyone is aware the dynamics in MSHA are changing and very unpopular and that is not likely to change in the short term.

                                Recently, MSHA has implemented a renewed emphasis of enforcement policy on Return Roller Guarding, implemented Rules to Live By and Horn policy.  The objective of this workshop is to discuss these 3 areas and obtain clarification regarding these standards.  

                                 The Safety Committee has scheduled time with the local KENT District MSHA supervisors to discuss these issues.

                                WHEN:   MONDAY MAY 24TH AT 9:00am- 11:30am

                                20809 72ND AVE S.  //  KENT //  98032
                                 ***     COMMONS BUILDING
                                ***   Same building as the Alkai Bakery & Day Care
                                ***   Site where the Spring Thaw Meetings have been held

                                WHAT:   Review of Policies for Return Roller Guarding,
                                                Rules to Live By and Horn Policy

                                HOW:   To register for this COMPLIMENTARY workshop 
                                            please email Sarah at shamner@washingtonconcrete.org

                                The Safety Committee is gathering and evaluating picture examples of when return rollers may require guarding and when they may not, and we hope to have a dialogue with the agency to clarify other newly implemented policies that are creating confusion.

                                If you cannot attend,  not too worry, we will take copious notes and provide as much guidance and clarity as we can following the event.  IF you are interested in receiving updated  information discussed at the workshop please email me or Sarah Hamner at:  shamner@washingtonconcrete.org
                                *** Note Sarah Patterson's email has changed to:
                                spatterson@washingtonconcrete.org will remain active for a little while.  Please update your records accordingly.

                                From I-5:
                                Take the 188th St / Orilla Rd Exit  //  Turn LEFT onto Orilla Rd  //  Orilla Rd becomes 212th St.  //  Turn LEFT onto W. Valley Hwy / 68th Ave S.  //  Turn RIGHT onto S. 208th St.  //  Take a LEFT at the "V"  in the driveway, the Commons Building is on your RIGHT.

                                From I-405:
                                Take WA 167N - Exit 2B  toward Rainer Ave S  //  Merge onto Valley Fwy. (WA -167 S.) via Exit 2A on the LEFT towards Kent / Auburn  //  Take the 212th St. Exit  //  Turn RIGHT onto 212th St.  //  Turn RIGHT onto W. Valley Hwy / 68th Ave S. //  Turn RIGHT Onto 208th St.  Take a LEFT at the "V" in the driveway.

                                For more information contact:
                                WA Aggregates & Concrete Association
                                22223 7th Avenue So.
                                 Des Moines, WA  98198
                                 ph. 206.878.1622
                                fx. 206.878.6282