Best Practices for MSHA Compliance

Over the last year, we have seen the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) ramp up enforcement with an increased emphasis on the pattern of violations (POV), the resumption of impact inspections, and the implementation of two new final rules. 2023 also saw an increase in fatal accidents, which will likely direct much of MSHA’s enforcement emphasis in 2024. Ensuring compliance with MSHA standards is more crucial now than ever before.  However, compliance with MSHA standards isn’t just about meeting regulatory requirements; it’s about safeguarding lives and fostering a culture of safety. 

Understanding Who MSHA Has Authority Over

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 authorizes the Secretary of Labor to enforce safety and health standards regarding the working conditions of employees engaged in underground and surface mineral extraction (mining), related operations, and preparation and milling of the minerals extracted. This includes independent contractors performing construction, maintenance, or any other work on a mine site.  This article delves into the essential practices for achieving and maintaining MSHA compliance in the mining industry.

Paperwork Compliance

For paperwork compliance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), mine operators and independent contractors working on a mine site must fulfill several requirements. Here’s a general overview:

  1. Initial Paperwork: Every mine operator and independent contractor must have an ID number assigned by MSHA; a formal Training Plan that outlines the training that will be completed and how it will be completed; updated Legal ID; 
  2. Training Documentation: All training documentation must include topics covered and training dates, such as initial new miner training, annual refresher training, and task training. Task training has become a focus during inspections over the last year.  Every task a miner has been trained in must be documented – even if you have already reported that they are trained in a loader, you must have training paperwork for each type of load they are competent to operate.  Documentation must also be on file for anyone trained before 1999.  
  3. MSHA Forms: Mine Accident, Injury and Illness Report (Form 7000-1), Quarterly Mine Employment and Coal Production Report (Form 7000-2), and many others.
  4. Inspection Records: Before running, pre-operation inspections must be completed on all mobile equipment. Workplace Examinations must be completed for each area included in the mine site before the start of each shift.  Any defects or hazards found must be documented, and then the repair to it must also be documented. 
  5. Safety Plans and Procedures: Depending on work being completed, the following plans and procedures should be in place – Emergency Response Plans, Hazard Communication Plans, Hearing Conservation Policy, Lockout/Tagout Program, PPE, Respiratory Protection.
  6. Compliance Documentation: Documentation of any required noise and dust testing that has been performed.

Understand the New Rules

The first rule, 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 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 come into compliance with this rule, while Metal/Nonmetal mine operators have 24 months for compliance. For more information on both these rules check out our last blog here.  

Prioritizing Workplace Examinations

Workplace examinations are a critical component of ensuring safety and compliance. MSHA has increased the number of citations they have issued for workplace examinations over the last few years under standard 30 CFR § 18002.  Many of these citations have been issued under “significant and substantial” (S&S) and some have even been high negligence.  Many of these citations are then also issued under an additional standard particular to a certain hazard that they have found, resulting in essentially two citations because of the same condition. 

A good workplace exam performed before the start of each shift will mitigate any hazards and ensure the area is ready for work to be performed. There are several key aspects that should be included in a proper workplace examination: 

  • An exam should be performed in each location where work is being performed and documented.
  • A competent person who has been task-trained to perform workplace examinations should complete the exam in each area.  This can be done by a separate competent person in each area.  
  • Create a written record of each exam, including – what is being looked at (list all possible hazards in the area), the competent person performing the exam, the date and location name, mine name and ID #, and a list of any hazards found with how they were taken care of (with the date of the correction included). 
  • If a hazard takes more than one shift to correct, the area should be barricaded with a tag included identifying the hazard to keep other out of the area. 

Promoting a Culture of Safety

Achieving MSHA compliance goes beyond mere adherence to regulations; it requires fostering a strong safety culture that is built on trust, communication, and employee engagement. This involves instilling a mindset where every employee feels empowered to speak up about potential hazards or safety concerns. Regular safety meetings, hazard reporting systems, and recognition programs for safety achievements can help reinforce this culture of safety.  The foundation of a highly engaged safety culture begins with leadership.

At Catamount Consulting, we put people first.

Putting people first creates an environment of engaging leadership. We know that strong leadership and consistent training create a strong and effective workforce. We help companies understand and develop the value of their management team and employees. Catamount Consulting provides leadership, safety, and training for mining, construction, and general industry. We deliver professional safety services, consultation, and compliance strategies at a fair price and with the highest regard for quality and employee safety. Our trainers and safety consultants are available for in-person or offsite training and leadership speaking engagements. Please contact us to inquire about availability or more information.