Proposed penalties for safety and health violations are assessed by MSHA’s Office of Assessments according to a formula that considers five factors:
- history of previous violations;
- size of the business;
- any negligence by the operator;
- gravity of the violation; and
- the operator’s good faith in trying to correct the violation promptly.
These factors are determined from the inspector’s findings, MSHA records, and information supplied by the operator. A sixth factor, the effect of the penalty on the operator’s ability to stay in business, is considered when an operator submits information in that regard. More detail on these criteria, and a Penalty Conversion Table, are available in 30 CFR Part 100.
In cases involving extreme danger or willful violations, the Office of Assessments may determine that a higher Special Assessment is appropriate. In addition, if a mine demonstrates a pattern of Significant and Substantial violations, the agency could place the mine on a Pattern of Violations (POV).
A Proposed Assessment and Statement of Account is mailed to the mine operator. Upon receipt, a mine operator has 30 days to pay or contest the citation or penalty to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. If a penalty becomes 120 days delinquent, it is referred to the Department of Treasury for collection.
Penalties may be paid electronically at Pay.Gov, a service of the U.S. Treasury, or by U.S. mail using a remittance coupon included in the assessment statement.