2024 Brings Two New Final Rules for MSHA

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently released two long-awaited final rules that will change the compliance outlook for 2024.

Rule1: Safety Program for Surface Mobile Equipment

The first rule, the Safety Program for Surface Mobile Equipment, became final in January 2024, with compliance required by July 17, 2024, for all mine operators and independent contractors. The rule requires that all mine operators and independent contractors working on a mine site develop and implement a written safety program for surface mobile equipment at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines.  The written safety program must be designed and updated with input from miners. It must include actions mine operators will take to identify hazards and risks to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities related to surface mobile equipment. It allows independent contractors to integrate their safety programs with the mine operation, therefore alleviating the need to create a separate safety program as long as all the hazards are the same. Surface mobile equipment includes any wheeled, skid-mounted, track-mounted, or rail-mounted equipment capable of moving or being moved and any powered equipment that transports people, equipment or materials (this includes pickup trucks used onsite). It excludes belt conveyors and manually powered tools (e.g., hand carts, push carts, welding carts, etc.).

Written safety programs must:

  • Identify and analyze hazards and reduce the risks related to the movement and operation of surface mobile equipment.
  • Develop and maintain procedures and schedules for routine maintenance and non-routine repairs for surface mobile equipment.
  • Identify currently available and newly emerging feasible technologies that can enhance safety at the mine and evaluate whether to adopt them.
  • Train miners at the mine to identify and address or avoid hazards related to surface mobile equipment.
  • Input must be obtained from miners and employees when developing and updating the written safety program.
  • A responsible person must be designated for the program to evaluate and update the program as needed.

The standard does not require operators to submit their plans to MSHA, but they will be reviewed during regular inspections.  You can find more information on the new rule and compliance assistance here: Final Rule: Safety Program for Surface Mobile Equipment | Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Rule 2: Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica and Improving Respiratory Protection

The second rule, Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica and Improving Respiratory Protection, was issued on April 18, 2024. The final rule will take effect on June 17, 2024. Coal mine operators have 12 months to comply with this rule, while Metal/Non-metal mine operators have 24 months.

The rule requires both underground and surface mines to reduce the “permissible exposure limit” for breathable silica from 100 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air (100 μg/m3) to 50 micrograms (50 μg/m3) during an 8-hour shift. Operators must also begin taking protective measures when silica levels reach an “action level” of 25 micrograms (25 μg/m3). These changes make MSHA’s standard consistent with the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) in 2016 for factories, oil drilling sites, and construction projects.

The rule also requires metal and non-metal mine operators to establish medical surveillance programs similar to those already required for coal miners under existing standards. These programs provide periodic health examinations at no cost to miners.

MSHA noted in their press release the hazard of inhaling respirable crystalline silica and that it “can cause serious lung and other diseases, such as silicosis, lung cancer, progressive massive fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and kidney disease.” MSHA also explained that exposure to “mixed coal mine dust containing respirable crystalline silica can lead to the development of black lung disease and progressive massive fibrosis.” Based on evaluating these hazards and the new controls, MSHA believes that the rule change will result in over 1,000 avoided deaths and almost 4,000 avoided cases of silica-related illnesses. Find more information on the new rules and guidance here, Respirable Crystalline Silica | Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

If you have any questions about the new rules, Contact us to learn more.

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