MSHA Regulatory Trends in 2021

2021 MSHA Regulatory Trends

The MSHA impact on a reduced number of U.S. coal mines

Fewer coal mining businesses are operating currently in the U.S. The reduction of coal mines may impact the amount and duration of inspections nationwide. With fewer coal mines, there is more time for inspectors to devote themselves to existing operations. It is also plausible that these inspectors may turn to the metal and non-metal mines.

Regional organizations and field district offices may be combined or blurred into one office. The reduction provides significant financial savings to the agency.

Political impact on MSHA rules and regulations trends

There may be some political impact as a result of the 2020 Election. Mark Savit, General Manager of Predictive Compliance, shares his insight on the political implications the elections and transition may have on MSHA.

The incoming administration has not yet, as of this posting, created a Labor Department Transition team. Nor has the Biden team decided on an appointment for the Secretary of Labor position. Traditionally, Assistant Secretaries for OSHA and MSHA trail the appointment process by months. The current Trump administration has not had a confirmed Assistant Secretary for OSHA. Having looked at the transition team, it is compiled of about 90% of people with union connections and strongly pro-labor. Selection may be made with a candidate with ties to the unions such as steel, mining, or operating engineers. As a result, mine owners may be subject to complaints about management and may be pursued more vigorously.

What does MHSA training look like in the future?

MSHA Virtual Training

Training is a vital and critical part of operations, whether mining or construction. The pandemic created the need for virtual or online training. This virtual format widens the net for training options and can include even the most remote locations so long as internet options are available.

  • Virtual regulatory training is a logistically easier solution.
  • To ensure the attendees are active and in person, the addition of check-in requirements will be implemented.
  • Depending on the state and location, hybrid options for virtual and onsite training are possible. Here in NYS, 85% are virtual or online, maybe a hybrid of 40%. The western states are still predominantly training and meeting in person.
  • There is an increased focus on retention level with virtual training to stay relevant. Retention is critical, especially with significantly larger sessions such as the annual refresher.
  • Virtual meetings reduce travel costs. However, miners receive less pay because there is no travel time. The unions may press for in-person training.
  • Functional resources and guest speakers such as Mark Savit are more readily available using virtual training options.

Changes to site audits and inspections

MSHA Site Audit Changes”

Adherence to the CDC guidelines on mining and construction sites has not changed. The addition of wearing a mask, not shaking hands, and socially distancing has no impact on the audit and inspection process. Rules and regulations have not shifted.

Mark Savit built a virtual calculation tool, Predictive Compliance. It works like this: after an inspection, you can enter the violation and calculate the penalty on the spot. The program displays the options for fixing the citations and calculating what the new penalties will be. Completion of this new tool is estimated at 1st Q 2021.

  • Determines the fines in real-time
  • It tells you what the impact is to the penalty if you change anything on the citation. For example, negotiate the determination of negligence from high to moderate or change the likelihood of injury can save thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Being prepared for a MSHA inspection and handling citations keeps workers safe and avoids fines and penalties.

There is no crystal ball.

No one knows what impact the vaccine will have on our personal and professional lives. At Catamount Consulting, we do our best to keep you informed and offer training and information regularly. Visit our Services page to learn more about on and offsite training in all facets of MSHA, OSHA, and firearms safety.

Catamount is dedicated to providing small- to medium-sized businesses with professional safety services, consultation, and compliance strategies at a fair price and with the highest regard for quality and employee safety. Contact us to learn more.