On March 10, 2021, nearly one year into the pandemic in the United States, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued its first comprehensive guidance addressing COVID-19 protections for mine sites.
In a 2–1 decision on January 21, 2021, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) shed additional light on what is and is not a flagrant violation of the Mine Act.
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.
On January 20, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. appointed Commissioner Arthur R. Traynor III to serve as chair of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC). Traynor replaces former mine industry lawyer Marco M. Rajkovich Jr., who had been chair since his appointment to the FMSHRC in 2019.
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.
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.
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.
A contentious issue during the recent presidential campaign was the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter where one fell along the spectrum of supporters and critics, there was no denying the wide gulf of positions on the topic.
Due to a recent court decision, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has again revised its workplace examination rule, 30 CFR §§ 56.18002, 57.18002, undoing revisions made in 2018 and returning it to its original form as issued in 2017.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced today that it would hold a public meeting on its recent Request for Information (RFI) on Respirable Silica (Quartz). That RFI, published on August 29, 2019, requests that stakeholders provide, by October 28, 2019, “information and data on feasible best practices” to protect miners from quartz in respirable dust.
Due to a recent court decision, metal/nonmetal mine operators are again facing the possibility of having to comply with two of the more onerous provisions of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) workplace examination rule, 30 C.F.R. §§ 56.18002, 57.18002, as it was originally issued in 2017. Those provisions concern the timing of when the examination must be performed and what adverse conditions must be recorded on the examination record.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) held its quarterly stakeholder call on May 2, 2019. MSHA began the discussion by reviewing the five fatalities that occurred in the first quarter of 2019. The agency then discussed best practices to prevent injuries in the event of a mobile equipment fire and reviewed upcoming training opportunities.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has begun a three-month pilot project to see if the agency and operators can reach a final resolution regarding citations at the informal health and safety conference stage.
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission is back in business as it will soon have a quorum again to decide cases. The Commission plays an important role in mine safety and health law. The Commission establishes precedential case law when it decides appeals of administrative law judge decisions in Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cases, including citation contests and discrimination cases.
On March 12, 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral argument in United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union v. Mine Safety and Health Administration, USCA Case No. 18-1116.
The safety and health committee of the Nevada Mining Association (NMA) recently met with top Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials to discuss the safety of Nevada’s underground and surface metal/nonmetal mining operations.
On January 24, 2019, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) held its first Quarterly Stakeholder Call of the year.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently named Deputy Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health Timothy R. Watkins to fill the newly created MSHA position of administrator for Coal and Metal/Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health.
On October 16, 2018, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) conducted a quarterly stakeholder conference call. Among the topics highlighted by MSHA were vehicle fire safety, in light of recent accidents in which fire suppression systems allegedly failed to function as intended, and a renewed emphasis on conveyor safety, which is part of MSHA’s powered haulage safety initiative.
On September 28, 2018, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) posted important updates to its enforcement guidance on the new final rule on Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines. The new workplace examination rule technically went into effect on June 2, 2018, but MSHA delayed enforcement of the rule until October 1, 2018.
On August 30, 2018, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) lost its required quorum of three commissioners for deciding appeals from administrative law judge decisions.
On August 16, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) presented a webinar, “Safety Improvement Technologies for Mobile Equipment at Surface Mines, and for Belt Conveyors at Surface and Underground Mines.”
At a mining industry conference in June 2018, Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo briefly described a plan to “blur the lines” between the traditional division of the agency into coal enforcement and metal/nonmetal enforcement.
Powered haulage accidents are the leading cause of fatalities in the mining industry. They accounted for 50 percent of the fatalities in 2017 and as of this writing, 57 percent of the fatalities in 2018 were powered haulage related.