MSHA upholds some of the strictest safety and health standards in the country. If a violation is found during a mine inspection, a citation can be issued, and MSHA will order miners out of the affected area. To keep workers safe and avoid costly fines and penalties, it is essential to handle any MSHA citations promptly and to take steps to prevent future violations from occurring.
Before the Inspection
Conduct thorough workplace exams. The best way to avoid a citation is to address problems as they occur. A thorough workplace exam will help you identify deficiencies so that they can be corrected. Record what you find and what corrective actions you’ve taken. MSHA requires deficiencies to be corrected in a timely fashion…so be diligent and address issues as they come up. Make sure your employees know what to look for and why. Contact the safety department if you need assistance.
Review the Standards: Supervisors should be familiar with the various sections of the CFR book and know how to look the standards up. Competence plays a big part in their mind. It is also a good idea to discuss the standards at safety meetings.
If an inspector presents an alleged violation, it is okay to respectfully disagree with their finding. The key to avoiding or reducing a MSHA citation is to remain calm and professional. Discuss the issue with the inspector in the field before a citation is written.
- Ask the inspector why they think a citation exists and what type of hazard it is classified as. Review the standard with them to confirm what it states. If you have questions, review the standards in the CFR.
- If the inspector pushes for more information, cooperate in answering their questions, and explain when appropriate. Answer truthfully and provide helpful information while avoiding harmful admissions.
- Present your defense to the inspector.
- If the hazard is obvious, take immediate action to fix it, then promise to investigate the issue and take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future. Don’t offer misleading statements or engage in any arguments with the inspector.
What to look for in a citation
An MSHA citation must include several key elements. First, it must be provided in writing; no oral citations can be given under Section 104. The citation must also include a description of the alleged violation and its classification and a reference to the specific regulation that was allegedly violated.
Contesting a MSHA citation
If you feel a citation was unfounded, you have the right to challenge it. When considering whether a violation should be challenged, look into whether the alleged action was prohibited by a standard or if there was a failure to comply with a stated requirement. Next, assess the gravity of the violation. How likely is it that an accident could have occurred, and how severe would a potential accident have been? Finally, review the potential level of negligence. What was known about the violation, and when was it known? What was done about it?
Resolve the issue
Ultimately, MSHA requires that any proven citation be resolved promptly, so it is crucial to take swift action to address the violation. To prevent future citations, discuss the MSHA requirements to ensure everyone knows what to look for and take proactive steps to address any issues as they come up to ensure continued compliance.
When dealing with MSHA inspectors, remember that your relationship with the agency is vital for the safety and compliance of your operations. Always remain professional and take action to stay informed of the regulations and requirements. Doing so will keep your production on track and will help you to avoid expensive abatement costs and penalties from violations.
Need help navigating through MSHA citations?
Understanding and handling MSHA citations is an important part of your business. MSHA requires all Surface Miners to have 24 hours of New Miner training initially, then a minimum of 8 hours refresher training each year thereafter. Catamount Consulting’s MSHA-certified instructors teach both Part 46 and Part 48 Surface Mine Training.
Visit our Training, Consulting, and Work Zone Safety page to learn more about on-site and office training in all facets of MSHA, OSHA, and firearms safety.