“MSHA enforcement should focus on areas of greatest risk,” said Joseph Casper, NSSGA VP for Safety, at a Charlotte, NC meeting of MSHA stakeholders from the southeast on Thursday, October 22. With MSHA leaders Joe Main, Neal Merrifield and Sam Pierce (southeast district manager) in attendance, Casper echoed NSSGA testimony given the day earlier to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections calling on MSHA to make further improvements in enforcement consistency. The testimony also reminded that inspectors should not issue citations unless they see an actual violation of the Mine Act. This is important, as NSSGA continues to learn of inspectors declaring before the inspection has even begun that an inspection will not be citation-free.

Casper expressed appreciation for the improvements made in the southeast district in recent years in bolstering enforcement consistency, and positive and constructive outreach to stakeholders. This makes a tangible difference in managing for safety and compliance.

Casper reviewed NSSGA’s advocacy campaign for passage of a multi-year highway bill and for withdrawal of EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule. He went on to describe the range of MSSGA’s compliance-boosting efforts, citing the MSHA-NSSGA Alliance’s Technical Task Force work to reach agreements with MSHA to relieve some enforcement burdens tied to such issues as protecting against falls from work platforms and mobile equipment. The Task Force also led the way in augmenting MSHA instruction of inspector trainees with operator insights on ways in which enforcement inconsistency can undercut operator work toward safety.

Casper called on MSHA to be reasonable in development of new regulations citing the troubling proposal on civil penalties as an example. NSSGA was pleased that, since NSSGA testimony on this point in December, 2014, the agency modified various facets of the proposal’s gravity provision. While the original proposal called for gravity to be determined in a broadened scope of a possible event that could lead to an injury, the revised version dropped the qualifier of an event being necessary. Accordingly, the revision stands as a proper narrowing of the circumstances in which an alleged violation could be cited.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Casper at (703) 526-1074 / jcasper@nssga.org.

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