The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration has launched the second phase of a program designed to strengthen efforts to prevent mining fatalities. According to a press release, "Rules to Live By II: Preventing Catastrophic Accidents" was developed from data gathered by reviewing accidents that resulted in five or more fatalities, as well as from incidents caused by fires or explosions that had the potential to result in more fatalities.

"Too many miners have lost their lives in catastrophic accidents over the past 10 years," said Joseph A. Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. "That is simply unacceptable.”

In developing the second phase of “Rules to Live By,” MSHA analyzed citation data from eight accidents at underground coal mines that took place between 2000 and 2009 -- claiming the lives of 47 miners -- in order to identify conditions, practices, root causes and safety violations contributing to the accident.

Main explained that the goal of “Rules to Live By II” is to prevent major accidents by having mine operators identify and correct hazardous conditions, and using MSHA enforcement to confirm that violations have been addressed.

“We are committed to scrutinizing the data on deaths in the mining industry and getting at the leading causes of those deaths to prevent subsequent ones," said Main.

In its analysis of the violations contributing to the accidents, MSHA identified nine coal standards falling into one of four categories: explosions, aftermath of a fire, mining methods and examinations. MSHA is also focusing special attention on two other standards dealing with combustible materials and rockdusting to prevent coal mine fires and explosions.

MSHA will begin with outreach to the mining community, through enhanced enforcement and increased scrutiny for violations of these standards. Information is also being sent to state grantees, who provide training to the mining industry.

The first "Rules to Live By" initiative, launched earlier this year, focused on standards that were frequently cited in fatal accident investigations from January 2000 through December 2008. MSHA inspectors will begin enhanced enforcement efforts for the second phase on Jan. 1, 2011.