2015 was the safest year yet for the U.S. mining industry. MSHA recently released the official figures reporting 28 fatalities for all U.S. mining last year, down from 45 mining-related deaths in 2014. Of the 28 fatalities, 17 were in metal and non-metal mining, while 11 were recorded in coal mining. “While coal mine closures had some effect on the historic low number of mining deaths, actions by MSHA and the mining industry to improve mine safety have been a major factor,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. This is good news as safety initiatives put in place continue to save miners.
2016 will be a busy year for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as it looks to finalize certain rule makings and guidance documents. Here are the top five changes to watch for:
1. OSHA penalties are going up. Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, Section 701, “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015,” OSHA will be required to issue a one-time catch up adjustment in 2016.
2. Silica rule is expected in February 2016. OSHA indicated that the final rule for the Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica will be published in February 2016.
3. Recordkeeping and disincentive policies final rule is expected in March 2016. The regulations are anticipated to add new electronic reporting obligations to most employers that are required to keep OSHA 300 Logs.
4. Updated safety and health program management guidelines will be issued. These guidelines have been updated to reflect modern technology and practices.
5. Look for the following regulatory actions that could impact the construction industry:
- Preventing Back-Over Injuries and Fatalities.
- Chemical Management and Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).
- Updating OSHA Standards Based on National Consensus Standards Eye and Face Protection.
- Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol: Amendment to the Final Rule on Respiratory Protection -Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard.
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MSHA recently issued a safety alert emphasizing the importance of seasonal safety. According to a new safety alert from NSSGA and the MSHA Alliance, slips, trips and falls accounted for 19% of injuries in the aggregates industry during 2014. With colder weather around the corner we need to be more careful when it comes to working in harsher conditions as the risk for slips and falls only increases. Best practices in the alert include:
- Task train all persons to recognize all potential hazardous conditions that can decrease bank or slope stability, and ensure that they understand safe job procedures for elimination of the slopes.
- Train people to recognize the hazards of working near belt conveyors.
- De-energize and block belt conveyors against motion before working near a chute, drive, head, tail or take-up pulley.
- Lock-out and tag-out all energy sources to belt conveyors before working on them.
- Always use fall protection when working where a fall-to-below hazard exists.
- Establish policies and procedures for safely clearing plugged material in a jaw crusher.
- Maintain and use all available methods of communication, such as sirens and radios, to warn people of an impending blast. Establish methods to ensure that all people are out of the blasting area.
- Always wear a life jacket where there is a danger of falling into the water.
“NSSGA encourages all operators to review the alert so they can be prepared to work safely, and demonstrate full compliance with standards addressed in the above-mentioned best practices,” said Joseph Casper, NSSGA vice president of safety.
Now is the time to make sure your safety programs are comprehensive and up to date and that all employees have received the safety training necessary for work. Since 1990, OSHA has not been able to increase the civil penalties it can impose when an employer is cited for a violation. That changed on November 2, when President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Hidden within the act are terms requiring OSHA to significantly increase civil penalties. And this isn’t just a little increase, it is more of a “catch up” adjustment, resulting in a penalty increase of approximately 80 percent. In other words, a $7,000 cap on serious violations will increase to $12,600, and the $70,000 limit on willful and repeat violations will jump to $126,000. After this “catch up” adjustment is made, OSHA will continue to adjust penalties every year based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index. Increased penalties will take effect by August 1, 2016.