Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act – Details

The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act would improve mine safety and close glaring loopholes in our nation’s mine safety laws that could help save miners’ lives.

Inspections & Penalty Assessments

  • Mandates that inspections by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) occur during all shifts and days of the week
  • Revises “pattern of violations” (POV) enforcement, including a new prohibition against terminating the employment of a miner when a mine is under POV, and for the three following years, absent a sufficient performance related cause
  • Authorizes injunctive relief for conduct that constitutes a “continuing hazard to the health or safety of miners, including violations” of the Act
  • Revokes previously approved mining plans and the issuance of withdrawal orders for materially changed circumstances or hazards to miners
  • Establishes a lower standard for determining what constitutes a “significant and substantial” violation
  • Requires the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to use MSHA’s civil penalty formulas as a minimum standard
  • Compels the accrual of interest on proposed civil penalties contested by an operator to be paid on any amounts determined by final Commission order
  • Directs MSHA to close a mine that does not pay a civil penalty within 180 days after the assessment becomes a final order
  • Elevates the maximum civil and criminal penalties for mines, mine operators, and their agents for violations of health and safety standards, advance notice of inspections, and acts of retaliation for protected safety activity
Every rule, every regulation in the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act is written in the blood of a dead or injured miner.         
–Cecil Roberts

Investigations

  • Establishes an independent investigation panel chaired by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for accidents with three or more deaths, or other events that NIOSH may believe are sufficiently severe to warrant a special panel
  • Enhances MSHA’s subpoena power during investigations and inspections
  • Prohibits attorneys from representing both mine operators and miners without the miner’s knowing and voluntary waiver of all conflicts of interests

Miners’ Rights and Retaliation Protections

  • Extends the statute of limitations for filing a retaliation complaint from 60 to 180 days and grants miners the right to seek punitive damages for such claims
  • Requires the immediate temporary reinstatement of a miner pending litigation on a retaliation claim, even if MSHA has declined to provide representation for the miner
  • Allows victims and family members to designate a miner’s representative
  • Authorizes felony criminal sanctions for persons who knowingly retaliate against miners who have provided information to MSHA or other law enforcement officials
  • Requires mine operators to provide full pay to miners for a maximum of 60 days when MSHA temporarily closes a mine for safety violations
  • Increases annual refresher training from eight to nine hours and includes additional training on miners’ rights and protections