Over two years, the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration implemented a series of new laws and policy changes. This caused the number of health and safety enforcement cases being contested by mining companies to skyrocket—from just a few cases per year to hundreds of cases annually. This surge overwhelmed MSHA resources, generating a mountain of backlogged cases and delaying resolution of many cases by a year or more.
The backlog put the miners covered by those cases at increased risk: mining companies can delay implementing contested changes to health and safety systems while their cases are under review. Given the enormity of the backlog, simply hiring more staff was not enough. MSHA tasked ERG with identifying a solution based on improved process efficiency.
ERG implemented a Lean Six Sigma process analysis to identify and solve the backlog issue. ERG mapped the case resolution process and interviewed MSHA personnel (past and present) and mining company managers to analyze the issue and identify opportunities for improvement. ERG also conducted a detailed statistical analysis of enforcement data to find the key drivers of MSHA’s backlog. Based on these results, ERG developed recommendations for practical process efficiencies—many of which MSHA implemented—to reduce the backlog without compromising the quality of work.