Pennsylvania mine operator Rox Coal Inc will have to pay $110,000 in fines for violating an electrical hazard safety standard. The mine’s chief electrician had deliberately disabled the safety switch a couple of days before sending two workers to change fuses. As a result, on October 3, 2007, one of the miners was shocked while changing the fuse on a high voltage switch house. The incident occurred at Geronimo Mine in Somerset County.
After an investigation into the accident, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) classified the violation as flagrant. Occupational Health & Safety reports, “An administrative law judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission agreed with the agency’s enforcement action against Rox Coal Inc.”
MSHA had proposed a fine of $150,200, according to The Republic. Rox Coal’s general counsel Lori Mason told The (Somerset) Daily American, “The company was able to have the original fine of $150,200 reduced to $110,000 because Rox Coal Inc. acted in good faith.”
Mason also clarified that the employee acted in an unauthorized manner and that Rox Coal was blindsided by his actions. She further said that the company had “provided all training required by MSHA. It provided additional training beyond that required, including training on the hazards of electrical shock. It conducted weekly and monthly safety meetings.
It instituted a safety incentive program at all of its mines with the goal of totally preventing lost-time accidents. It implemented a
safety policy in 2006 that delineated certain unsafe acts which included a penalty/disciplinary structure for miners whose actions were deemed unsafe.”
Although Rox Coal dealt with the electrical safety violation within the hour, administrative law judge David Barbour mentioned that the condition was present for a minimum of two production shifts. This put miners at risk of death or at least serious injury.
“Mine operators must take responsibility at all times to prevent conditions that can lead to accidents and injuries,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, on the Department of Labor website. “Those who deliberately put miners’ well-being at risk must be held accountable.”