MSHA decided to distribute these guidelines based, in part, on testimony delivered during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in West Virginia in May. Testimony from family members of miners who died in the April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine indicated that concerns over safety conditions existed at the mine prior to the deadly blast. Two weeks after the blast, MSHA conducted a series of enhanced inspections at 57 coal mines around the country and found that, in at least two cases, miners illegally provided advance notice of a federal inspector’s presence on mine property.
Federal law provides that any person who gives advance notice of any inspection is, upon conviction, subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment or both. The law also imposes personal liability on individual corporate agents if they knowingly authorized, ordered or carried out a violation of a mandatory health or safety standard or an order issued under the law.