MSHA issued a 103(k) order to withdraw miners after a mine blast expelled a large rock, six feet in diameter weighing two tons. The rock left the mine site, rolled through a neighbor’s property and landed in a creek. The ejection of the rock was not intended, but the blast was planned and there was no injury to anyone on or off the mine property.

Because this was not an “unplanned ignition or explosion of a blasting agent or an explosive,” the mine operator, Revelation Energy, LLC, did not consider it an “accident” subject to reporting or control orders under MSHA’s regulations. The company contested the order within 30 days of issuance, contending that the event did not fall within any of the 12 categories of “accident” under either the definition in 30 C.F.R. Part 50 or MSHA’s Program Policy Manual.

Administrative Law Judge William Moran rejected the company’s argument, accepting instead MSHA’s position that the Part 50 definition of “accident” does not limit the issuance of 103 (k) orders to events defined in Part 50, and neither does the Program Policy Manual. The judge held that the controlling definition of “accident” for implementation of section 103(k) is in the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, not MSHA’s regulations or policy.

The judge pointed to the language of Section 3 of the Act, which states: “For the purpose of this Chapter, the term – . . . (k) ‘accident’ includes a mine explosion, mine ignition, mine fire, or mine inundation, or injury to, or death of, any person.” [Emphasis added] Noting that the Act is to be liberally interpreted, Judge Moran wrote that the word “includes” is a “term of enlargement, and not of limitation” as it is employed in the Act. Judge Moran held that generally accepted notions of accident are not precluded by the specific events that the Act says are included.

To conclude otherwise, the judge wrote, “would deny MSHA authority to deal with an event which, by any rational measure, was clearly an accident.” The judge also indicated that it “would affront common sense and be at odds with the remedial nature of the Mine Act.”

While the holding in this case does not address what should and should not be reported immediately (within 15 minutes) under Part 50, the judge did suggest “for argument’s sake” that Part 50 reporting requirements could extend to the incident that occurred in this case as an “unplanned ignition or explosion of…an explosive.” The company plans to appeal the decision.