MSHA has taken the unusual step of making substantial revisions to the proposed civil penalties rule even before the close of the comment period. NSSGA and other stakeholders expressed strong opposition to the original rule as it reduces operators’ options to contest citations and risks dramatically increasing penalty assessments.

The changes, announced Feb. 10, involve the critical areas of negligence and gravity of alleged violations.

“The agency made significant improvement in the proposed civil penalties rule. While it’s clear that MSHA is listening to our concerns, we’ll only know with certainty once the final rule is published,”

said Joe Casper, NSSGA’s vice president of Safety Services

Casper specifically highlighted that MSHA improved the definitions of “severity” and “gravity of violations.”  Not doing so would have resulted in substantial increases in penalty assessment costs.  Most notably, the agency dropped the absurd notion that an inspector’s determination that an injury could have “occurred,” for an event that may not have actually even taken place.

The agency held another public hearing on the matter Feb. 12 in Chicago.  Also, the agency again extended the deadline for comments on the proposed rule to March 31.  In March, NSSGA will urge operators to comment on the revised proposal by the March 31 deadline for submission to MSHA.