Some Required Coal Mine Inspections Are Not Being Performed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration

HRD-82-84: Published: Jun 10, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO conducted an investigation in a Logan, West Virginia, field office to determine the extent of the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) inability to perform its required inspections, the reasons for the seeming lack of trained inspectors to conduct mine inspections, and whether inspectors are being intimidated into quitting their jobs.

Some coal mine inspections required by law were not being performed either nationwide or in the field office. Nationally, MSHA performed only 95 percent of the mandatory inspections from October 1980 through March 1981. The Logan Field Office performed a significantly smaller percentage of these inspections. The Office performed required inspections in response to 62 hazardous condition complaints. However, GAO did not determine whether the Office performed all of its required mine reopening inspections. The agency attributed this to an inadequate number of mine inspectors. In recent years the numbers of coal mine inspectors has declined nationally and in the Logan Office due to hiring freezes and restrictions imposed. Actions initiated by the President to remove the hiring freeze and increase the MSHA mine inspection capabilities should improve the MSHA ability to perform its mandated mine inspections. GAO interviewed seven former inspectors who had recently resigned from the Logan Office. They said that the reasons they resigned were inadequate financial benefits and medical insurance and job dissatisfaction caused by conflict-of-interest regulations, a lack of management support, inappropriate performance standards, excessive paperwork, a possible reduction in force, and harassment by miners and operators.

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