Eye Opener: Audit faults mine inspector training
Updated 6:20 a.m. ET
A new government audit faults the federal government's mine inspection agency for poorly retraining veteran mine safety inspectors in recent years. The watchdog report was published just days before a West Virginia mine explosion Monday that left at least 25 mine workers dead.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration hired more than 350 new inspectors in fiscal years 2007 and 2008, increasing its total inspection force by 26 percent. But 56 percent of veteran inspectors failed to attend required retraining courses during a two-year training cycle that started in 2006, according to the audit.
At least three inspectors had failed to attend retraining courses since the inception of the agency's new training policies in 1998. The agency failed to track and ensure completion of retraining courses and did not punish inspectors who failed to attend courses, according to the report by the Labor Department Inspector General. MSHA is part of the Labor Department.
The lax enforcement allowed a new recruit to perform inspections without completing minimum entry-level training, according to the report. The recruit was able to do so even though the agency had not defined circumstances that permitted recruits to skip training.
Auditors surveyed about 260 veteran inspectors; 27 percent of those polled believed that MSHA did not provide them with the technical training they needed to effectively perform their duties. Other inspectors said they believed the agency had failed to provide them with sufficient understanding of mining laws and regulations, agency policies and procedures, and current mining technology.
Auditors recommended that MSHA hold supervisors accountable if inspectors failed to complete retraining and suggested suspending an inspector if they failed to complete retraining.
MSHA Director Joseph Main, who took over in 2009, agreed with the auditor's recommendations and said the agency will hold district managers, assistant district managers and field supervisors accountable if inspectors fail to complete retraining. It will also reiterate the importance of training programs to employees and revise its training policies.
Agency officials didn't yet know Monday night what caused the West Virginia blast, but the mine reportedly releases up to 2 million cubic feet of methane gas into the mine every 24 hours and has faced several safety violations in the past.
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| April 6, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments | Tags: Federal government of the United States, Massey Energy, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Technology, United States, United States Department of Labor, West Virginia, mine blast
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