MSHA to Hold Public Meeting on Respirable Silica RFI

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.

Government Shutdown Update: Business as Usual for MSHA in the Field

With frantic negotiations continuing in the Senate—as of this writing—to find an agreement that will end the government shutdown, it is possible that this article is reaching you after a solution has been reached. Nonetheless, given the polarized nature of Congress and the very real possibility that we will find ourselves back in a stalemate in a few weeks, we thought it might be instructive to provide you with the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) shutdown contingency plan.

MSHA Issues New Workplace Exam Proposed Rule

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced today that it was issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking that will amend the Workplace Examination regulation at 30 C.F.R. § 56.18002 (Surface) and § 57.18002 (Underground).  The amended regulation, “Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines,” will add new recordkeeping and training requirements for operators that will potentially expand enforcement liability for supervisors on mine property.

MSHA Workplace Examination “Clarification” Places Enforcement Target Squarely on Operators

Over the years, the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) has tried on two different occasions to overhaul the workplace examination standard at 30 CFR §56/57.18002 by issuing program policy letters. The agency’s primary goal in each of those efforts was to expand the recordkeeping requirement in the regulation to require operators to record conditions identified in the examination. In each case, following industry challenges, the agency was forced to withdraw its new policy and concede that the regulation does not contain such a requirement. These concessions were ultimately based on the recognition that such substantive changes to the regulatory requirements of the standard would necessitate notice and comment rulemaking that afforded stakeholders appropriate input.

MSHA Initiates Enforcement Review of Elevator Safety at Cement Operations

In the aftermath of a fatal elevator accident in February 2014 at a cement plant in Kentucky, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has initiated an unannounced elevator enforcement review at cement operations around the country. According to MSHA management, the specific focus of these reviews, which are conducted in conjunction with regular inspection visits, is to determine the status of operator compliance with the personnel hoisting inspection and maintenance requirements at 30 C.F.R. §§ 56.19120 and 56.19121.

MSHA Assistant District Manager Asserts That Competent Persons Performing Workplace Exams Are Agents of the Operator

At a mining industry safety conference in June, an MSHA Assistant District Manager stated that the agency viewed persons that perform workplace examinations pursuant to 30 C.F.R. § 56.18002 as performing an “agent-like” function that subjects them to the same Mine Act individual liability that can be directed at supervisors and managers. The statement was made while addressing MSHA enforcement efforts and priorities directed at the recent spike in fatal accidents at metal-nonmetal mining operations.