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A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a $5,000 fine to a Pennsylvania mining company for its failure to notify regulators of a major health and safety incident within 15 minutes.
A miner for Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co. LLC in 2013 suffered a crushing injury between two pieces of mining equipment and quickly exhibited, among other “worrying” symptoms, signs of internal bleeding, according to documents in Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co. LLC v. Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission; Secretary United States Department of Labor, filed in the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
“Without delay,” the company got the out of the mine and coordinated getting him to a hospital, but it failed to notify Mine Safety and Health Administration for about two hours — law requires mine operators to notify MSHA within 15 minutes after the occurrence of an injury having "a reasonable potential to cause death," documents state.
Consequently, MSHA issued a citation to Consol for violating law. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the citation over Consol's protestations. The safety supervisor who was called to the scene at the time “did not think there was a reasonable potential for death,” documents state.
Consol, whose petition for review was denied by the federal appeals court, challenged several aspects of the Commission's decision, including that it erred in applying the notification standard, among other arguments.
The appeals court ruled that the standard was appropriately applied.
“None of this is to fault (the men who assisted) for how they responded” the injured miner, the appellate court wrote. “They reacted quickly and commendably to provide effective care… We simply conclude that a reasonable mine operator, possessing the information they had, would have believed the incident had a reasonable potential to turn fatal, and there was thus an obligation to call MSHA.”
Mining fatalities in 2018 were the second-lowest on record, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.