Let me tell you about an experience I had with a Labor Department lawyer earlier this month. It was one of those experiences that made me realize how important it is for those of us in the mining industry to have a good working knowledge of the Mine Act and how enforcement is supposed to work.
I represent a really good client, a company that mines its own materials and uses those materials in construction projects around the community. The construction side of the business is really what they do, with the rock production part being a small but necessary aspect of the operation. They generally have an excellent enforcement record when it comes to MSHA, but it would be a mistake to call them sophisticated mine operators.
It’s a fine, close-knit group of people, out there doing their best and trying to make a living. Every contact I have with them is positive and reminds me of how much I like the people part of what I do.
One Friday afternoon a while back, some of the folks on the mining side of the operation were welding a new guardrail on the crusher feeder because an MSHA inspector required that as a condition of terminating a citation. They were installing the new guardrail in sections and using the raised bucket of a loader as a physical barricade to provide fall protection for each section that was missing as they advanced along the feeder.
As they were getting ready to install the last section, MSHA arrived on-site to terminate the earlier citation. The three miners working on the installation were struggling a bit to stabilize the last piece of rail. Just as the inspector and the management representative got to the crusher, the loader operator jumped out of the machine and ran to lend a hand to the miners on the catwalk – leaving the loader unattended and the bucket raised.
You know what happened next. Continue Reading We Have to Know What We’re Doing, Because They Don’t Always Get It