What to expect during an MSHA mine inspection

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) division of the U.S. Department of Labor is required to inspect surface mines twice a year, and underground mines four times a year. Additional inspections are required for mines with higher levels of toxic gas and/or explosives, as well as those that are reported due to hazardous conditions. Knowing what to expect during an inspection can help you avoid citations and fines.

The MSHA inspector will arrive with checklists in hand, and make note of violations as well as all actions taken to correct any violations. These regularly required MSHA examinations will include inspections of equipment, work areas, and certain records that must be kept by mine operators. Mine operators are required to keep records of all examinations and corrective actions taken for one year, and must make them available to MSHA inspectors upon request.

MSHA inspectors will inspect areas within the mine for health and safety violations. They will observe and inspect all areas where workers are required to travel within the mine and the working area, defined as "any place in or about a mine where work is being performed," including maintenance and repair work, including:

  • Control towers
  • MCC and scale house
  • Dump points
  • Highwalls
  • Ramps and roadways
  • Screens
  • Crushers and conveyors
  • Shops

MSHA inspectors will also examine equipment to ensure they are not in hazardous condition or placement, including:

  • Hoppers
  • Crushers
  • Drive belts
  • Conveyors
  • Electrical boxes
  • Ladders
  • Handrails
  • Safety lines
  • Fire extinguishers

Inspectors will also review flammable material storage, traffic signs, protective equipment, fall protection, housekeeping etc.

Inspectors will be looking for conditions that pose imminent or potential hazards. If immediate dangers are present they will be reported to the mine operator, who will be required to immediately remove personnel and/or equipment until corrections are made. Inspectors issue citations for any safety and health violations they find, and mine operators may be assessed a fine for each citation issued.

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