MSHA Releases Final Rule for Penalty Increase in 2020

By: Nicholas W. Scala

Adhering to what is now an annual requirement since passage of the 2016 Inflation Adjustment Act, on January 15th the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) published a Final Rule updating the penalties to be used for the assessment of citations and orders in 2020. The increased penalties will determine assessments for mine production operators and independent contractors for all citations and orders assessed after January 15th. 2020 inflation 2

For the most basic citations, the increase is minimal, the statutory minimum penalty for regularly assessed penalties increases from  $135 to $137. But, the 1.764% inflation increase is more noticeable when citations and orders are classified more seriously and therefore creep further up MSHA’s regular assessment penalty conversion chart. For example, the statutory maximum for penalties assessed under 30 C.F.R. Section 100.3 is now $73,901, up from $72,620 in 2019.

Other increases of note include:

  • Minimum Penalty for 104(d)(1) Citation/Order
    • Increase from $2,421 to $2,464
  • Minimum Penalty for 104(d)(2) Order
    • Increase from $4,840 to $4,925
  • Minimum Penalty for Failure to Notify MSHA of an Accident within 15 Minutes
    • Increase from $6,052 to $6,159
  • Maximum Daily Penalty for Failing to Abate MSHA Citation (104(b) Order)
    • Increase from $7,867 to $ 8,006
  • Maximum Penalty for Flagrant Violations under Section 110(b)(2)
    • Increase from $266,275 to $270,972

Since passage of the 2016 Inflation Adjustment Act, MSHA has until January 15th of each calendar year to increase the penalty assessment limits. The new penalties will become evident as mine operators begin to receive Proposed Assessments and Statements of Accounts from MSHA following the issuance of citations or orders in 2020. The increase in penalties in no way impacts mine operators option to contest any assessed citation or order, and as penalties continue to increase MSHA may find more operators contesting to ease the financial burden.

(For more information on the history of these increases see our 2016 blog post on implementation of the Inflation Adjustment Act and its Catch-up Provisions by the Department of Labor)

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