WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that its Mine Safety and Health Administration has notified Atalco Gramercy LLC, the operator of Gramercy Operation in Gramercy, Louisiana, that a pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act exists.
The pattern of violations screening process examines all the nation’s mines and identifies mines with a high number of significant and substantial violations and other safety and health compliance problems. An S&S violation is reasonably likely to lead to a reasonably serious injury or illness. Under the Mine Act, MSHA identifies mines exhibiting a pattern of S&S violations and is authorized to issue a POV notice – one of the agency’s toughest enforcement actions – to mine operators who are chronic violators and demonstrate a disregard for the safety and health of miners.
From May 1, 2022, through April 30, 2023, MSHA cited 106 S&S violations at Gramercy Operation, of which 34 cited the operator’s high negligence or reckless disregard. Also included are four elevated orders MSHA issued after inspectors learned the mine operator had not provided training as required by law, and then withdrew the miners immediately as they presented a hazard to themselves and others.
MSHA also determined the Gramercy Operation’s S&S rate per 100 inspection hours was 9.54, compared to the national average for metal and nonmetal facilities of 8.09. In its review, MSHA identified a pattern of S&S violations related to caustic spills and leaks that put miners at risk of injury. Several of the S&S violations resulted from inspections MSHA initiated after receiving complaints about hazardous conditions at the facility.
If a mine receives notice of a POV and then commits additional S&S violations, federal law requires MSHA to withdraw miners from the affected area except those necessary to correct the violation. An operator can be removed from Section 104(e) sanctions if no S&S violations are found within 90 days of the POV notice’s issuance. Following that, MSHA can terminate a POV designation after an inspection of the entire mine finds no S&S violations.
“Congress put the pattern of violations authority in the Mine Act for a reason. To combat the troubling trend of fatal mine accidents in 2023, MSHA will continue to use all its enforcement tools to identify hazards that can jeopardize miners’ safety and protect our nation’s miners by requiring mine operators to immediately correct hazards,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson.
The announcement of the Pattern of Violations at Gramercy Operation follows an impact inspection MSHA conducted on Jan. 31, 2023. The inspection cited the mine operator for failing to take prompt appropriate action to correct caustic material spills after workplace examinations identified the hazards; not maintaining electrical equipment properly, including unsafe electrical cables, missing or damaged inspection and cover plates, and not correcting potentially dangerous conditions before energizing equipment.
MSHA offers two online calculators to help mine operators monitor compliance, including the Pattern of Violations Calculator, which allows mine operators to monitor performance under the POV screening criteria and alerts mine operators that corrective actions are needed, and the Significant and Substantial Calculator, which enables mine operators to monitor their S&S violations. It is the responsibility of mine operators to track their violation and injury histories to determine whether they need to take action to avoid triggering a POV notice.
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