MSHA special investigators get tips from the FBI

About 75 special investigators from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration are taking crimefighting tips from the FBI as part of two weeks of classroom instruction at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.Va., the agency said April 5.

The refresher work covers topics such as using proper interview techniques to conduct thorough investigations, the use of injunctive relief in federal district courts, evaluating evidence, reviewing knowing and willful violations, and processing discrimination complaints.

Agents from the FBI’s Evidence Response Unit are instructing the MSHA inspectors on how to approach an accident scene, photograph the scene, obtain and secure evidence, deal with false or altered records and release the scene. Attorneys with the department’s Office of the Solicitor are presenting on civil and criminal aspects of investigations, specifically addressing evidence needed for successful prosecutions. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice are assisting MSHA presenters with lectures on subjects including how to prepare cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, evaluate cases for criminal referral, serve as expert advisers and witnesses, and understand the responsibilities of a grand jury.

“MSHA’s special investigations division is an integral part of the agency’s overall enforcement program,” said Joseph Main, the head of MSHA. “This training will serve to strengthen the skills needed to conduct the most thorough, solid and accurate investigations.”

The minimum requirements to become a special investigator include being an authorized representative of the Secretary of Labor, who oversees MSHA, with authority to conduct inspections or having the authorization for right of entry to mining operations, as well as the completion of five weeks of formal classroom training. Credentials also may be obtained through an on-the-job training program. Classroom work consists of reviewing and studying the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, regulations, policy and procedures, and final decisions by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. The commission is the appeal forum for coal operators that don’t like any MSHA citations they’ve gotten.

Also, MSHA on April 6 published a final rule revising its requirements for preshift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations of underground coal mines. These examinations are to identify violations of health or safety standards related to ventilation, methane, roof control, combustible materials, rock dust, other safeguards, and guarding, as listed in the final rule. Violations of these standards create unsafe conditions for underground coal miners.

The final rule, effective Aug. 6, also requires that the mine operator record and correct violations of the nine safety and health standards found during these examinations. It also requires that the operator review with mine examiners on a quarterly basis all citations and orders issued in areas where preshift, supplemental, on-shift, and weekly examinations are required. The final rule will increase the identification and correction of unsafe conditions in mines earlier, and improve protection for miners in underground coal mines, MSHA said.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.