MSHA Publishes Final Rule on Penalty Inflation Increase for 2021

By: Nicholas W. Scala

Adhering to what is now an annual requirement since passage of the 2016 Inflation Adjustment Act, on January 14th 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 2021. The increased penalties will determine assessments for mine production operators and independent contractors for all citations and orders assessed after January 14th.

For the most basic citations, the increase is minimal. The statutory minimum penalty for regularly assessed penalties increases from $137 to $139. The inflation adjustment is less than in 2020, with increase coming in at just a hair over 1%, but as always the increase becomes more noticeable as citations/orders become more severe and the penalty criteria 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 will increase to $74,775, from $73,901 in 2020.

2021 inflation snip

Other increases of note include:

  • Minimum Penalty for 104(d)(1) Citation/Order
    • Increase from $2,464 to $2,493
  • Minimum Penalty for 104(d)(2) Order
    • Increase from $4,925 to $4,983
  • Minimum Penalty for Failure to Notify MSHA of an Accident within 15 Minutes
    • Increase from $6,159 to $6,232
  • Maximum Daily Penalty for Failing to Abate MSHA Citation (104(b) Order)
    • Increase from $8,006 to $8,101
  • Maximum Penalty for Flagrant Violations under Section 110(b)(2)
    • Increase from $270,972 to $274,175

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 2021. 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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