Last year the total number of workers who died in mining accidents more than doubled to an astonishing 47. This sharp increase in casualties could be, at least in part, due to the fact that over one in seven of the United State’s 731 mines were not inspected at all by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), although they were required to under the Federal Mine and Health Act of 1977, which requires mines get inspected four times a year. It was found that the MSHA missed 147 inspections in 107 mines, which employed 7,500 people. The Bush administration claimed it was due to budget restraints causing a decrease in inspectors and the lack of management’s focus on worker safety.
Auditors showed MSHA inspecting officials failed to complete “critical inspection activities” fifteen percent of the time, especially during the string of mining accidents like West Virginia’s Sago Mine explosion which killed twelve miners, and the Crandall Canyon collapse in Utah which killed six. The inspecting officials also misdated their mine approvals. In one case, a mine official dated his inspection for February when the actual inspection took place in May. Due to growing criticism, last month the MSHA launched a new plan to add 244 workers for 2008 and boost overtime benefits.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Worksite Injuries and Workers Compensation.