By a vote of 52-46, on November 15, 2017, the United States Senate confirmed David G. Zatezalo to be the new Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health. Zatezalo takes the position last held by Joseph A. Main, former United Mine Workers of America safety official. It is expected that Zatezalo will be far different than Assistant Secretary Main had been in his approach to leading the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Zatezalo comes to his new position having been on the receiving end of Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) enforcement for many years as a coal executive. One of his company’s mines even was confronted with the most severe of MSHA’s enforcement powers—pattern of violations enforcement. His company also faced charges of advance notice of MSHA inspections.
Many see Zatezalo’s nomination as the beginning of a more cooperative approach by MSHA to mine safety and health. Time will tell how much or how quickly this will occur. He did express support, at his confirmation hearing, for rebuilding the MSHA small mine office and enhancing training assistance to mine operators. On the other hand, he endorsed MSHA’s continued regular inspection programs and did not provide clear insight into his future position on current rulemaking initiatives, such as the workplace examination rule in the metal/nonmetal industry.