As I write in the current issue of Rock Products magazine, mining is an industry approaching zero, with record low fatality rates. But, enforcement doesn’t always follow risk. Mines account for only 0.5% of U.S. workplace fatalities but have 40% of federal safety dollars. Even within mining, mines with fantastic safety records are just as likely to get intensive MSHA inspections as those with severe problems. Is there a better way?

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When Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta testified before Congress earlier this month, he emphasized balancing safety agencies’ legal obligations and commitments with President Trump’s commitment to deregulation. Meanwhile, members from both parties on the Subcommittee of Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations focused heavily on $1.2 billion in proposed budget cuts at the Department of Labor (but not for OSHA or MSHA).

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Baked into the core of federal safety laws is the concept that employers facing unfair citations can get a day in court. That system depends on two independent commissions of judges – both trial judges and appellate – to hear and review cases involving OSHA and MSHA citations. Keeping those panels stocked with commissioners has been an ongoing challenge.

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