The Mine Safety and Health Administration is planning the release of two final rules this year, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has plans to release eight new rules, all by years end. Mine operators have been critical of some of these proposed changes for fear that fines will be higher. MSHA plans to release a final rule addressing fees for testing, evaluating, and approving mining products this August. Find more information here on the proposed MSHA, OSHA plan to release new rules and target release dates.
MSHA may be getting ready to launch a new policy that could expand and re-interpret mine operator responsibilities when conducting workplace examinations. A new program policy letter (PPL) began circulating on July 9, before MSHA decided to remove it from distribution. During a stakeholder meeting at MSHA headquarters on July 22, an updated PPL with significant changes from the previously released PPL was issued. These changes came after the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) and others expressed concerns over the PPL. If adopted, the new PPL could dramatically change the mine safety workplace exam and redefine what MSHA considers a violation.
“I think everyone is going to see an increased enforcement effort from MSHA,” agency chief Joe Main told attendees at a conference call on August 5, following the death of three Metal/Non-Metal miners just two days earlier.
After stepped up enforcement in June 2014 and February 2015 to limit Metal/Non-Metal fatalities in the mining sector, as well as increased outreach, education and training efforts, MSHA has decided to boost enforcement resources by reassigning 17 coal inspectors to the Metal/Non-Metal sector and hire 21 more inspectors in its third initiative to limit fatalities. MSHA also plans to step up outreach to Metal/Non-Metal operators, with special attention to mines with 10 employees or less. Read more:
Information on recent fatalities, a press release announcing the latest initiative, and a letter to stakeholders can be found on MSHA’s website at http://www.msha.gov/fatals/summaries/PreviousSummaries.asp and http://www.msha.gov/media/press/2015/msha-downloads.asp.
MSHA is now considering a rule that would require all mines to use an equipment warning system to protect miners from being run over or crushed. The proposed technology is called a proximity-detection system and uses electronic sensors to detect motion as well as the distance between a miner and a machine. Audible and visual warnings signal when a machine comes too close to a miner, and the system is programmed to stop automatically before hitting someone. The proposed rule would require companies to install the technology on machines including ram cars and scoops, which are used to move coal. “This proposed proximity-detection system rule would better protect miners from being crushed or pinned in the confined underground mine spaces where large equipment is constantly in motion,” MSHA chief Joseph A. Main said.
With cooler days on the horizon, October is often the month that mines begin annual shutdown activities, ranging from disassembling of portable plants and relocation of equipment to, for mines that operate full time, annual repairs. Unfortunately, October is also a month of high fatalities in the metal and nonmetal mining industry. This year, MSHA has launched an initiative to help combat the historically high death rates that occur during the month of October. The initiative includes enhanced enforcement and education and outreach, such as informational “walk and talks” at mine sites. Coal enforcement and personnel from MSHA’s Educational Field and Small Mines Services will assist in these activities by talking to mine operators and miners and calling attention to potentially hazardous tasks and conditions and best mining practices.
Best practices include:
- Identifying hazards through effective workplace exams
- Controlling hazards through a detailed work plan
- Providing effective task training based on the work plan
- Locking out and blocking equipment against hazardous motion
- Providing necessary PPE
For more information, check out this article.