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MSHA News Release No. 98-0724
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Friday, July 24, 1998

New Rule Raises Civil Penalties for Safety and Health Violations

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced a final rule that calls for a 10 percent increase in civil penalty fines for all mine safety and health violations. The increase, which was effective June 22, 1998, is the result of a Congressional mandate that agencies make inflation adjustments in their civil penalties.

This marks the first such increase since January 1992 and, according to the terms of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, adjustments must now be made every four years.

"This agency's primary focus has always been about achieving and maintaining safe and healthy working conditions, and civil penalties play a role in that process," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The new penalty level will provide mine operators with an added incentive to maintain their own commitment to safe and healthful work environments."

Under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, MSHA inspectors must issue a citation for each violation of a health or safety standard they encounter. The severity of the violation determines the penalty amount.

Regular assessments are calculated by a computer-generated formula that converts penalty points into a dollar amount. The formula takes into consideration company size, violation history, negligence, gravity, the operator's good faith attempts to correct the violation promptly, and the effect of the penalty upon the operator's ability to stay in business. In situations where the regular assessment would be considered inadequate (as in the case of a fatality or serious injury), MSHA may waive the formula and make a special assessment.

The single penalty assessment increased from $50 to $55, and the existing maximum daily civil penalty rose from $5,000 to $5,500 for failure to correct a violation within the period permitted. The maximum civil penalty increased from $50,000 to $55,000 per violation. Miners who willfully violate mandatory safety standards relating to the use or carrying of smoking materials will now be fined $275, up from $250.

The final rule on increased penalties was published in the Federal Register on April 22, 1998. The provisions giving rise to the new civil penalty amounts appear in Section 110 (a), (b), and (g) of the Mine Act.