Mine Safety and Health:

Tampering Scandal Led to Improved Sampling Devices

HRD-93-63: Published: Feb 25, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) development and use of tamper-resistant devices, particularly cassettes and pumps, for collecting coal dust samples in its respirable coal dust program.

GAO found that: (1) before the Secretary of Labor's 1991 announcement of massive tampering with coal dust samples, no incentive existed for the coal industry to independently improve tamper-resistant cassettes; (2) the Bureau of Mines, MSHA, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) did not seek more federal funding for tamper-resistant cassette research from 1978 through 1991; (3) the extent to which the Bureau of Mines, MSHA, and NIOSH evaluated the test results and made appropriate decisions could not be determined, since most of the documentation on prototype development was destroyed by agency personnel no longer in the federal workforce; (4) a manufacturer modified the cassette filter to prevent direct tampering in 1991, and also developed a tamper-resistant pump for monitoring industrial hygiene, in 1992; (5) MSHA will not require coal mine operators to purchase the pump immediately; (6) MSHA supports adopting a continuous fixed-site dust monitoring program that would reduce the need for mine operators and periodic sampling, but that technology remains years away; and (7) implementing a full-scale sampling program using existing technology is not a MSHA priority

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