A bill aimed at promoting mine safety was reintroduced in the House of Representatives on April 15. The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 1579) (pdf) would, among other things, increase Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) oversight and accountability, impose new mine safety requirements, institute new whistleblower protections for miners, and increase civil and criminal penalties for mine operators charged with committing serious and repeat safety violations. A similar but more expansive bill (S. 153) was introduced in the Senate earlier this year. In addition to addressing mine safety, the Senate version would also significantly revise the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act by strengthening whistleblower protections for employees in all industries, increasing employer civil and criminal penalties for repeat and/or willful violations of the OSH Act, providing greater rights for victims of accidents and their family members to participate in OSH Act proceedings, and requiring employers to begin the violation abatement process while the citation is pending.
Both versions of the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act failed to advance in 2010. After the measure was initially introduced as the more comprehensive safety and health bill, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) stripped the legislation of its OSH Act provisions, and reintroduced it following the November 2010 elections. Despite this effort to make the bill more palatable to those opposed to it, the House blocked its passage in December 2010. The reintroduced version is therefore unlikely to clear the House this time around. More information on this bill can be found here.
Photo credit: dannyfroese