By Brent I. Clark and Ilana R. Morady

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has just announced the revision of its final pattern of violations (POV) rule, which makes it easier for the Agency to shut down mines. 78 Fed. Reg. 5056 (January 23, 2013). “The final rule simplifies the existing POV criteria, improves consistency in applying the POV criteria, and more effectively achieves the Mine Act’s statutory intent.”

The new rule will allow MSHA to issue a POV notice to a mine without first issuing a potential POV notice. The rule also allows MSHA to consider orders and citations that are pending on appeal when it evaluates a mine’s safety record. In addition, the final rule will establishes general criteria and procedures that MSHA will use to identify mines that have a pattern of significant and substantial violations.

The final rule restates the statutory requirement that, for mines in POV status, each significant and substantial violation will result in a withdrawal order until a complete inspection finds no significant and substantial violations. The rule also reinforces mine operators’ responsibility for compliance with MSHA safety and health standards and for monitoring the compliance of their own mines.

With this update to the MSHA rules, mine owners and operators must be vigilant about their safety and health training, policies, and procedures to ensure compliance with the law.