MSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program on Driver Safety Raises Questions for Mine Operators

On the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) website, there is a notice about an enhanced enforcement program focused on mine operators’ responsibilities that aims to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities for contract and customer truck drivers, as well as managers and supervisors performing mining work.

MSHA Accident Investigation Reports: Should They Tell the Whole Story?

Several years ago, we helped a mine operator through a difficult accident investigation. During the investigation, a toxicology report was received that indicated the presence of a narcotic in the victim’s bloodstream. There was a great deal of debate with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) about whether the amount identified could have impaired the victim’s motor skills and judgment, possibly contributing to the accident.

Nominee Announced to Become Head of MSHA

On November 12, 2021, the White House announced the nomination of Christopher Williamson to become the assistant secretary of Mine Safety and Health. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Williamson will become the top leader of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), filling the position that has remained vacant since David Zatezalo resigned at the end of the Trump administration.

MSHA Unlikely to Issue Emergency Temporary Standard Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations or Testing

In a September 28, 2021 Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) stakeholder meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Jeannette J. Galanis stated that MSHA does not intend to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or testing of miners. Instead, MSHA will continue to rely on its COVID-19 guidance to mine operators and existing statutory and regulatory enforcement capabilities.

MSHA Unveils Proposed Powered Haulage Rule

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced its proposed powered haulage rule for surface mines and surface areas of underground mines. The proposed rule, which is open to public comment through November 8, 2021, will be set out at a new 30 C.F.R. §§ 56.23000–23004; §§ 57.23000–23004; and §§ 77.2100–2104 (surface coal). The proposed rule would require mine operators with six or more miners to develop and implement a written powered haulage safety program.

Recognizing the Signs of Ramped-Up MSHA Enforcement

One of the first things that comes to mind when a mine operator evaluates the ramifications of having received a citation is how much the resulting civil penalty might be. That is certainly a valid concern, but the penalty is only part of the story. The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) enforcement powers go far beyond imposing monetary penalties as punishment for a violation or as an inducement to come into compliance.

American Rescue Plan Act Signed: Details on the Latest COVID-19 Relief Package

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021—a $1.9 trillion economic relief package. While the legislation marks the first major legislative victory for President Biden and the administration, it is the sixth federal legislative relief package aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The legislation continues some programs established in these previous efforts, but it also adds some important components. Set forth below are some of the major provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Validity of MSHA’s 2017 Workplace Examination Final Rule

In a challenge to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) 2017 final rule expanding the workplace examination requirements at 30 C.F.R. §§ 56.18002 (Surface) and 57.18002 (Underground), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that the final rule had been promulgated and issued appropriately and denied the petition for review.

Executive Order on COVID-19—Vague Regarding MSHA

On January 21, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed an executive order directing the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take certain actions to address worker safety and health with regard to COVID-19. The executive order says much less about what the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) should do with respect to mining worksites, largely leaving it to MSHA to set its own course in addressing the pandemic.

MSHA Annual Inflation Adjustment to Civil Penalties

Annually in mid-January, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) adjusts its civil penalty assessments, in accordance with the inflation adjustment provisions of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act of 2015. This year the adjustments resulted in the following increases in minimum and maximum civil penalties for certain types of citations and orders. These new penalties affect violations for which the penalty is assessed after January 15, 2021.