As the two-year anniversary nears of the deadliest coal mine disaster in recent history, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is still trying to address some of the explosion’s root causes. One of the biggest impediments for federal inspectors is mine operators who break the law and give advance notice of inspections.
When inspectors arrive at a coal mine, the first thing they do is try to capture the mine’s communication systems. If workers outside can get word of the impending inspection to miners underground, that gives the miners time to fix some unsafe conditions and avoid citations.
This is illegal. But according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, it’s still happening far too often.
“The impact of that is that conditions are changed before we’re able to get to inspect them,” says MSHA head Joe Main. “And it has to do with hiding conditions that miners are normally exposed to that could put them in harm’s way that we’re not being able to find.”
Main says MSHA needs more tools from Congress to further crack down on safety scofflaws. He says he’d like to see increased criminal penalties for providing advance notice.