Mine Safety and Health Administration is trying to pass a bill that would make it easier to punish mines with a history of safety issues. A hearing took place today in Washington to discuss the bill. MSHA officials believe this bill will bring a "culture of safety" to the industry, especially with the 29 deaths in west virginia alone.
MSHA director, Joe Main, said, "when you have miners who go to work and leave notes for their families that they may not come home from work, i think that's a dire situation." Others on the panel agreed with Main.
"We have to give MSHA the tools they need to enforce the laws and we've got to punish those who absolutely refuse, Mister Chairman, just refuse to comply with these laws," said panel member Cecil Roberts.
Others saw flaws in the bill.
Jonathan Snare said ,"Penalties alone will not improve workplace safety. Remember, in many cases, penalties are imposed after the fact of an injury or fatality."
Officials say this bill would boost penalties for mines with serious safety violations and would also give mine regulators the power to shut down mines that were repeat safety offenders. Some board members testified that this would allow for too much inconsistency.
"Many of these regulations are subjective. We don't work in a black and white environment. Much of it is gradiance of gray and it's the interpretation of the individual as to whether or not a violative condition exists," said Bruce Watzman from the National Mining Association.
The bill would also allow mine safety officials to bring in more government oversight and higher penalties if a certain mine showed a pattern of safety violations-- something that also got mixed reviews among the panel.