MSHA’s Internal Review of Handling of Upper Big Branch Due This Week

by Erica Peterson on March 5, 2012

The Mine Safety and Health Administration will release its internal review this week into the agency’s actions leading up to and during the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

It’s MSHA’s policy to conduct an internal review after every accident that has three or more fatalities. Twenty-nine coal miners were killed nearly two years ago during an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

Davitt McAteer was the head of MSHA during the Clinton Administration, and led an independent investigation into the mine explosion for the state of West Virginia. In the report his team produced, McAteer says they found inconsistent and inadequate federal enforcement of mine safety laws at the Upper Big Branch Mine.

“We found that some of the protections that would have ordinarily have been there, or if they weren’t complied with like rock dusting, they should have been complied with and the fact that they weren’t complied with suggests that there wasn’t adequate enforcement at the mine,” he said.

McAteer says in the past, MSHA’s internal reviews have been fairly honest in uncovering the agency’s failings leading up to disasters.

“The difficulty is it doesn’t lead to the reforms that you would want it to lead to always, and if it does, the fix is frequently temporary,” he said.

MSHA will release its report on its website tomorrow morning.

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