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Mine Safety & OSHA Reform Bill Approved by House Committee

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By Gabrielle Sigel

 

On July 21, 2010, the Education and Labor Committee for the House of Representatives voted 30-17 to send to the full House the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5663). The bill incorporates portions of the previously introduced Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2067, S. 1580) and addresses safety in both mines and other workplaces. With respect to revisions to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Byrd bill increases civil and criminal penalties, expands family members' rights in settlement of violations, requires abatement during the period that citations are contested, and enhances protection for whistleblowers. The Committee also passed amendments to H.R. 5663 which affects the employer's burden of proof and the statutory standard for criminal liability. In addition, the Committee approved providing OSHA enhanced mechanisms for requiring state plan programs to conform to federal requirements. The authority of the Mine Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA") would be expanded to allow for increased penalties and enhanced enforcement, including with respect to the right to close down an unsafe mine, subpoena documents and testimony, and require additional training for miners. Republican efforts to modify these expansions of OSHA's and MSHA's authority were largely rejected, and the bill was voted out of Committee along party lines.