09/29/2010 07:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

OIG: MSHA's Regulatory Failures Stem From Consistent Lack Of Leadership

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration's failure to improve the safety standards of repeat offenders results from a systemic lack of focus and leadership that spans decades, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of the Inspector General.

MSHA has not successfully exercised its Pattern Of Violations, or POV, authority in 32 years, the OIG report concludes, owing in part to a lack of coherent departmental priorities and directives.

The inspector general noted that the limited POV process currently in place has long been "unreliable," adding that the criteria of an actionable complaint were often "complex and lacked a supportable rationale."

The audit also concluded that MSHA did not monitor the implementation of mine operators' POV corrective action plans; that logic errors caused unreliable results from MSHA's POV computer application; that tests identified no deficiencies in the reliability of data MSHA used for POV screening; and that delays in testing rock dust samples could cause delays in identifying safety hazards.

The IG said it made 10 recommendations to the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health.

OIG said:

In summary, we recommended that MSHA re-evaluate current POV regulations; seek stakeholders input in developing new, transparent POV criteria; use system development life cycle techniques in creating any new POV related computer applications; and re-evaluate the standard for timely completion of laboratory tests.

The full report and complete story will be included with the next edition of Mine Safety and Health News.