74-24.7. Inspections and investigations.

(a) The Commissioner through the Director shall make as many inspections and investigations in mines each year as are deemed necessary to effectively and accurately fulfill the requirements of:

(1) Obtaining, utilizing, and disseminating information relating to health and safety conditions, the causes of "accidents" and causes of illnesses and physical impairments originating in such mines,

(2) Gathering information with respect to the necessity for health and safety standards,

(3) Determining whether an imminent danger exists,

(4) Determining whether or not there is compliance with safety and health standards or with any notice, order, or decision issued under this Article.

(5) In carrying out the requirements of (4) of this subsection, no advance notice of an inspection shall be provided to any mine operator, official, miner, representative of the miners, or other person, except that the Commissioner or Director may authorize the giving of advance notice only when such notice is essential to the effectiveness of the inspection.

(b) For the purpose of making any inspection or investigation under this Article, the Commissioner or his authorized representative shall have a right of entry to, upon, or through any mine at reasonable times.

(c) For the purpose of making any investigation of any "accident" relating to safety and health in a mine, the Commissioner may, after notice, hold hearings, and may issue subpoenas for the attendance and testimony of persons and the production of relevant documents, and administer oaths in any investigation conducted by him. In case of contumacy or refusal to obey a subpoena served upon any person under this section, the general court of justice, superior court division, of the county in which such person is found or resides or transacts business, upon application by the Commissioner and after notice to such person, shall have jurisdiction to determine whether such person shall be punished as for contempt of court.

(d) In the event of an "accident" occurring in a mine, the operator shall notify the Commissioner or the Director thereof at such time as may be required and shall take appropriate measures to prevent the destruction of any evidence which would assist in investigating the cause or causes thereof. In the event of any "accident" occurring in a mine where rescue and recovery work is necessary, the Commissioner through the Director shall take whatever action he deems appropriate to protect the life of any person, and he may, if he deems it appropriate, supervise and direct the rescue and recovery activity in such mine.

(e) In the event of any "accident" occurring in a mine, the Commissioner through the Director may issue such orders as he deems appropriate to insure the safety of any person in the mine, and the operator of such mine shall obtain the approval of the Commissioner or his authorized representative in consultation with appropriate federal representatives, when feasible, of any plan to recover any person in the mine or to recover the mine or to return affected areas of the mine to normal.

(f) Whenever any miner or representative of the miners has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of a safety or health standard exists, or that an imminent danger exists, such miner or representative of the miners may request an inspection by giving notice to the Commissioner or the Director of such violation or danger. Any such notice shall be reduced to writing, shall set forth with reasonable particularity the grounds for the notice, and shall show the name of the miner, be signed by the miner or representative of the miners, and a copy shall be provided the operator or his agent no later than at the time of inspection, except that, upon request of the person giving such notice, his name and the names of individual miners referred to therein shall not appear in such copy. If, after receipt of such notification, the Commissioner finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe a violation may exist, a special inspection shall be made as soon as practicable to determine if, in fact, such violation or danger does exist under the provisions of this Article.

(g) At the commencement of any inspection of a mine by the Commissioner or his authorized representative, under subsection (a)(3) or subsection (a)(4) of this section, the authorized representative of the miners at the mine at the time of such inspection shall be given an opportunity to accompany the Commissioner or his authorized representative on such inspection, to inform the Commissioner or his authorized representative of conditions and practices in the mine, without loss or deduction in pay. Where there is no authorized representative of the miners, the Commissioner or his authorized representative shall have the right to consult with a reasonable number of miners concerning matters of safety and health in the work place. (1975, c. 206, s. 7.)