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The Mine Safety and Health Administration's new website makes it easier for mine operators and employers to find certain information, but federal officials say they plan to make additional improvements.
Since launching a beta version in November of the website, the agency has received about 200 comments and has been integrating much of the feedback into the website design, Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a statement last week.
However, the website is a work in progress and will continue to be improved over time, he said.
The major changes are on the home page, with new tabs and drop-down menus on topics such as training and education, which are good resources that are a bit easier to find than on the previous website, Nicholas Scala, co-chair of the new MSHA practice group of Conn Maciel Carey P.L.L.C., said Wednesday.
“It's a bit more user friendly,” he said.
Justin Winter, also co-chair of the firm's MSHA practice group, said about 90% of his visits to the website relate to seeking information on enforcement statistics and those data pages have not changed.
“It's not reinventing the entire system, so I think they made it somewhat easier for the people that are used to the website to familiarize themselves with it,” Mr. Winter said Wednesday. “I found that to be helpful that while they changed a lot of the access points, the main services I would use are unchanged.”
The home page does “a pretty good job” of highlighting major notifications and announcements, but some day-to-day information that mine operators need is “still a little buried,” Mr. Winter said.
“The data retrieval system is probably one of the most accessed points on the website and it's not front and center,” he said.
“For operators … it's not that easy to find. If you're going to the website for announcements from MSHA on new initiatives, speeches that the head of MSHA gives, those are the kinds of things that you're going to see first,” Mr. Winter said. “While that's valuable information, I don't believe that's why people are going to this website. That's one of the things I would have liked to see changed, but I don't think it hinders the website in any way.”
Mr. Winter said many employer clients use the website to help them monitor their pattern of violations or for early indications about potential penalties and citations.
“I also encourage my clients and any operator to use the website,” Mr. Scala said. “There's a lot of good resources on it. There's a lot of information about your specific mine or your specific company if you're a contractor, as well as information regarding compliance and how to better facilitate compliance with MSHA and how to monitor your progress at doing so.”
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration will ramp up its enforcement, education and outreach efforts in light of a “troubling” number of coal miner fatalities early in 2016.