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STAKEHOLDER MEETING IN MSHA’s SOUTHEASTERN DISTRICT ALLOWS FOR CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE

A long-awaited meeting with the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration’s Southeastern district stakeholders from the Carolinas and Virginia was held last Aug. 22 in Greensboro, N.C. with MSHA leaders.  Discussions were substantive and constructive.

North Carolina Aggregates Association President Steve Bruce, Martin Marietta Materials, kicked off the meeting by urging that regulators and the regulated communicate better on behalf of safety, health and compliance.  Informative presentations on education, conferencing, consistency in enforcement and effects of citations on injury prevention were presented.  MSHA’s Acting Administrator for Metal/Non-metal Marv Lichtenfels, Arlington, Va., and Sam Pearce and Doniece Schlick, Southeastern district, all struck a tone of conciliation.

Wake Stone’s Roland Massey made a presentation on education and training. Massey emphasized the import of state grants funding, as well as the need for both operators and inspectors to consistently apply the knowledge from MSHA’s effective training materials, e.g., the MSHA DVD on highwall safety.

Abel Parker, Luck Companies, recommended that MSHA better communicate reasons for citation modifications and vacatures.  Parker also urged that the industry do more to circulate MSHA’s development of suitable training materials.  In regard to the guarding guidance issued in recent years, Lichtenfels, said that if an operator demonstrates compliance with the guidance, “We’re going to back it.”

Bryan Moore, Vulcan Materials Company, presented on conferencing and contests.  He said that improvements in conferencing – e.g., by allowing for more objective evaluations of issued citations – should result in relief of the Review Commission’s case backlog.  Pearce commented that the district does hold accountable (e.g., tracking the number of vacated citations written) the 53 inspectors who work there.

Ron Slaton, U.S. Silica, discussed analysis of data on enforcement.  He emphasized the fact that MSHA’s own data shows no linear relationship between MSHA enforcement and injury reduction.  Slaton suggested that stakeholders get a chance to provide comment on draft guidance.

Lichtenfels commented that he hopes to improve the degree to which operators can provide suggestions before the agency issues future guidance.  He also said that that lock-out/ tag-out always is a cause of between one and three fatalities every year.  Future guidance will concern ladder safety and housekeeping.

Lichtenfels says that he welcomes ideas for future training of inspectors.  He reported that, regarding conferencing, two-thirds of all citations conferenced do not get contested.  Lichtenfels then promoted attendance at the SE district safety and health conference, slated for Nov. 4-7, 2013, in Birmingham.

Organization of the event was spear-headed by Jay Stem, executive director, NCAA.  Direct questions to Joseph Casper at (703) 526-1074 / jcasper@nssga.org.

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