A representative of RoxCoal, Friedens, said the company acted in good faith regarding the safety of its employees in commenting about a $110,000 fine.
RoxCoal received the civil penalty as the company was found in violation of a mandatory electrical hazard safety standard by an administrative law judge with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.
Lori J. Mason, general counsel and manager-government affairs, said Wednesday that the fine was based on an electrician doing something he was not permitted to do.
"The employee was not authorized to do what he did," she said. "We cannot predict when someone goes rogue, but that's what he did. We took extensive measures to prevent it."
The fine, as reported in Wednesday's Daily American, is based on an Oct. 30, 2007, incident in which a miner was shocked while changing the fuse on a high-voltage switch house at Geronimo Mine. The mine's chief electrician intentionally had disabled the safety switch two days prior to sending the miner and a co-worker to change fuses. As a result, the miners worked within inches of 7,200 live volts while performing this work.
In a written statement she said the company was able to have the original fine of $150,200 reduced to $110,000 because RoxCoal acted in good faith.
She quoted the commission's report saying, "The stipulated facts and Rox's unrefuted assertions indicate that the company was in fact "blind sided" by (the company's electrician's) conduct. They also indicate that the company did much that was right to meet the obligations imposed on it by the (Federal Mine Safety and Health) Act.
"It provided all training required by MSHA. It provided additional training beyond that required, including training on the hazards of electrical shock. It conducted weekly and monthly safety meetings. It instituted a safety incentive program at all of its mines with the goal of totally preventing lost-time accidents. It implemented a safety policy in 2006 that delineated certain unsafe acts which included a penalty/disciplinary structure for miners whose actions were deemed unsafe. . . . The court concludes that these factors clearly mitigate the company's negligence, as does the fact that (the electrician's) conduct was idiosyncratic, unpredictable and contrary to Rox's policies.
"Despite proper training and reasonable precautions, an operator's agent may intentionally, unexpectedly and negligently put himself and others at risk by violating the most elementary safety standards. When as here, the record reveals that the operator has taken all reasonable measures to prevent that conduct and has no forewarning it may occur, it does not further the purpose of the Act to assess the operator a penalty near the maximum the law allows."
RoxCoal fixed the violation within an hour. The condition existed, however, for at least two production shifts, putting the miners at risk of serious injury or death, Administrative Law Judge David Barbour wrote in his decision.
The company discharged the electrician, according to the document.
RoxCoal Inc. is a subsidiary of PBS Coals. PBS was purchased in late 2008 by Severstal Resources, an international steelmaking and mining company headquartered in Moscow, Russia. Under Severstal's ownership, Mason said PBS has greatly enhanced its safety policies and performance resulting in a reduction of PBS's loss-time injury rate from 10 in 2008 to its current rate of less than 0.5.