MSHA Jurisdiction May Extend Beyond Mine Property—But How Far?

On August 1, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated a Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) decision holding that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lacked jurisdiction to issue citations at a trucking company’s facility located more than one mile from a mining company’s property. In issuing its 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit found the Mine Act to be ambiguous and stated that FMSHRC and the courts should consider whether to grant deference to MSHA’s interpretation of the ambiguous law.

Taking Steps Toward Mine Safety

Case decisions and Mine Safety and Health Administration enforcement trends are the subject areas that tend to have the biggest impact on the compliance activities of mine operators and on the work of attorneys who focus on mine safety legal issues. But the one topic that currently has everyone’s attention is the spike of fatal accidents occurring across the mining industry.

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.

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 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.