MSHA final rule on respirable crystalline silica under White House review

Washington — A long-anticipated Mine Safety and Health Administration final rule intended to lower miners’ exposure to silica has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

Advancing a rule to OMB, which is under the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is one of the final steps in the regulatory process.

The rule would lower the PEL for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air – half the current limit – over an 8-hour time-weighted average. It also would increase silica sampling and enforcement at metal and nonmetal mines.

Workers can inhale silica dust during mining and other operations, including cutting, sawing, drilling or crushing materials such as rock and stone. Crystalline silica can damage lung tissue and lead to black lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or incurable silicosis.

OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust annually.

The rule has been under OMB review since Jan. 12. A proposal was published on July 13.

“The purpose of this … rule is simple – to better protect miners from exposure to silica so they do not have to suffer from entirely preventable debilitating and deadly occupational illnesses,” MSHA head Chris Williamson says on an agency webpage for silica rulemaking. “Silica overexposures have a real-life impact on a miner’s health.”

During a Jan. 25, 2023, conference call with MSHA stakeholders, Williamson discussed the path the rulemaking has taken since first appearing in the Spring 1998 regulatory agenda. The agency at that time forecasted a proposed silica rule would be in place in December 1998, he said.


McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Look at your training, MSHA tells mine operators at close of 2023

Christopher Williamson
Photo: US Department of Labor

Arlington, VA — Miner inexperience contributed significantly to what Mine Safety and Health Administration head Chris Williamson called an “unacceptable trend” of industry deaths in 2023.

MSHA recorded 40 miner deaths last year, the highest total in the past nine years. Around 3 out of 5 of the miners had spent less than two years at the mine, and half had less than 10 years of total mining experience.

The agency is calling on mine operators to reexamine their training – while acknowledging that federal training regulations carry specific minimal time frames.

“Does that mean the miner is adequately trained and fully ready to go in all cases at all times? Maybe, maybe not,” MSHA’s Brian Goepfert said during a Dec. 6 conference call for industry stakeholders.

“It’s an individual thing,” continued Goepfert, who is administrator of mine safety and health enforcement at the agency. “Miners of different generations learn by different means, and that’s where you really have to take a deep dive into each individual training plan at your mine and see if it’s effective.

“Is the message getting to the miner? Do they understand it? And can they demonstrate they understand it? That’s the key to training.”

MSHA reported 30 miner fatalities in 2022 after recording 38 in 2021, ending a six-year run in which fewer than 30 miners died on the job. At the time of the call, 14 of the 38 fatalities recorded by MSHA in 2023 were related to machinery, and 10 were attributed to powered haulage.

“This year, the mining industry has experienced a troubling increase in fatal mining accidents,” Williamson said. “As I explained in an open letter to the mining community earlier this year, MSHA is going to continue to use all its tools to combat this unacceptable trend.”

Williamson also addressed MSHA efforts to advance a long-awaited rule that would lower the agency’s permissible exposure limit to respirable crystalline silica.

Published Dec. 6, the Department of Labor’s Fall 2023 regulatory agenda indicated the rule has moved to the final stage from the proposed rule stage.

The rule would lower the permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air – half the current limit – over an 8-hour time-weighted average. It also would increase silica sampling and enforcement at mines.

During the call, Williamson thanked people who provided comments during the proposed rule stage and attended any of MSHA’s three public hearings on the rule.

“At the end of the day – as the agency has said in the proposed rule and as I’ve said – the existing standards are not adequately protecting miners from silica,” Williamson said, “and we need to move forward on putting in place a more protective standard.”


McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

Call 888-758-4757, email info@mccrarencompliance.com or visit our website www.mccrarencompliance.com

Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

NIOSH announces winners of mine technology awards

gold-star.jpg
Photo: olegback/iStockphoto

Washington — Four organizations recently earned recognition from NIOSH for their use of technology and creativity to advance miner safety and health.

The 2023 NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards were presented for the following categories:
Industrial minerals: Imerys was honored for redesigning a packing station and installing lift devices to mitigate repetitive-motion injuries related to lifting, as well as shoulder, arm and wrist twisting. NIOSH says the improvements “made a genuine difference in the working experience” while increasing the efficiency of the packing process.
Coal: Innovative Wireless Technologies and Arch Resources Inc. shared the award after collaborating on a next-generation wireless gas monitor that uses a multi-sensor platform. The tool produced real-time situational awareness and visibility of atmospheric conditions.
Metal: Hecla Mining reduced the all-injury frequency rate at its Lucky Friday Mine by more than half via the “underhand closed bench” mining method. The innovation, NIOSH said, improved proactive control of fault-slip seismicity in deep, high-stress, narrow-vein mining.

“Whenever private companies address health and safety issues with innovative approaches, everyone wins,” Steve Sawyer, director of the NIOSH Mining Program’s Pittsburgh Mining Research Division, said in a press release. “In mining, each operation has its own unique challenges, and solutions to these challenges need to be tailored to each mine.”

NIOSH presented the awards in conjunction with the Essential Minerals Association and the National Mining Association.


McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

Call 888-758-4757, email info@mccrarencompliance.com or visit our website www.mccrarencompliance.com

Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

MSHA issues alert on heat stress

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration is reminding mine operators of best practices for preventing heat stress and treating workers who become overheated.

heat stress

Photo: MSHA

In a recently published safety alert, MSHA says signs of heat stress include hot – and often dry, red or spotted – skin. The victim may be confused, have a pale or flushed face, and experience muscle cramps from a loss of sodium.

To help prevent heat stress:

  • Provide cool drinking water near miners, and encourage them to drink a cup of water every 15-20 minutes.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine and large amounts of sugar.
  • Use sunblockers and proper protective clothing.
  • Set up shaded areas for workers to take a break.
  • Rotate miners on hot jobs and schedule physically demanding tasks during cooler times

When treating symptoms, remove the miner from the hot area and apply cool, wet cloths to aid in recovery. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin or allow the miner to become cold enough for shivering.

Give the miner water if they’re awake. If no improvement occurs, seek medical attention.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Original article published by Safety+Health

USDOL impact inspections at 20 mines in 15 states find 335 violations in April 2023, miners exposed to 92 serious hazards

Original article published by MSHA

Identified 914 violations, including 257 significant, substantial violations since Jan. 1, 2023

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Mine Safety and Health Administration completed impact inspections at 20 mines in 15 states in April 2023 and found 335 violations.

Since Jan. 1, 2023, MSHA’s inspections identified 914 violations, including 257 significant and substantial and 18 unwarrantable failure findings. An S&S violation is one reasonably likely to cause a reasonably serious injury or illness. Violations designated as unwarrantable failures occur when an inspector finds aggravated conduct that constitutes more than ordinary negligence.

The agency opens impact inspections at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to poor compliance history; previous accidents, injuries, and illnesses; and other compliance concerns. MSHA began using impact inspections after an April 2010 explosion in West Virginia at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.

Among the 355 violations MSHA found in April’s impact inspections were 92 significant and substantial and 5 unwarrantable failure findings. The agency completed these inspections at mines in Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

“Impact inspections highlight the need for mine operators to be vigilant at all times and act quickly to prevent accidents and repeat violations,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “MSHA uses impact inspections to protect the nation’s miners from exposure to the serious safety and health hazards that exist in mine operations.”

The findings in one of April’s impact inspections shows the importance of these targeted inspections in holding mine operators responsible for miners’ safety and health. MSHA opened an inspection in Ohio’s Sandusky County at the Martin Marietta Magnesia Special mine, a large surface lime plant and quarry near Woodville given the following concerns:

  • Three recent hazard complaints and a 2022 nonfatal days lost accident rate almost three times higher than the national average for this type of mine.
  • A serious accident on April 11, 2023, when a miner suffered injuries after a metal guard fell on them. Investigators determined the mine failed to maintain the guard properly. To date, the miner has not returned to work.
  • An increased number of citations and orders.
  • A high rate of significant and substantial citations and orders.

MSHA issued 26 citations following its impact inspection in Woodville. These included 14 significant and substantial violations with an S&S rate of about 54 percent. Inspectors also found violations in two areas of great concern: Martin Marietta did not barricade a hazardous area that exposed workers to serious and potentially fatal injury, similar to the April 11 injury, and failed to construct and maintain guarding that exposed workers to serious injuries. MSHA cited a lack of proper guarding as a factor in its April 11 injury investigation.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

May 17: Stand Down to Save Lives

Original article published by MSHA

Stand Down save lives header logo

Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration

Many accidents can be prevented with just a few minutes – or seconds – of precaution. The Stand Down to Save Lives is an opportunity for mine owners and operators to share safety measures that can prevent injuries and deaths. Host a toolbox talk, a discussion on common hazards, conduct workplace and equipment examinations, or provide longer training sessions.

Keep these best practices in mind as you Take Time, Save Lives:

OWNERS/OPERATORS: How can you improve safety and health programs, equipment, and hazard reporting to make them more effective?

SUPERVISORS: How can you improve training and examinations? Have you addressed any concerns raised prior to your shift?

MINERS: Do you have properly fitting protective equipment and are you fully trained on any you are operating?

Tell us about your Stand Down to Save Lives trainings and other events!

downloadable poster


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

MSHA is Taking Steps to Increase Vaccinations in Mines Across the Country

First published by MSHA

Photo: MSHA

MSHA’s  Miner Vaccination Outreach Program (MVOP) organizes voluntary, free vaccination clinics in mining communities and provides educational outreach regarding the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

Participation in the MVOP program is completely voluntary and free for qualified mine operators. MVOP program representatives will collaborate with industry stakeholders to identify convenient locations, coordinate with health professionals to provide vaccine administration services, and develop communication programs to address the community’s questions and concerns.

MVOP’s pilot program was conducted October 2021-March 2022 in Kentucky and Arizona. The program is now available in other locations, subject to staffing availability in those areas.

Click here to send a message to MSHA to request more information about the vaccination program.

VACCINE CLINICS:

KENTUCKY
Kentucky Crushed Stone Association Safety & Education Seminar
Jan. 26, 2022 (2:00pm-6:00pm EST)
Marriott Louisville East, Louisville, KY
Open to public

ARIZONA
Asarco Ray Mine
Jan. 25, 2022
Kearny, AZ
Mine employees only

Asarco Mission Mine
Jan. 26, 2022
Sahuarita, AZ
Mine employees only

MSHA has received a high volume of questions regarding the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and both mine operator actions and MSHA actions in response. This information sheet provides practices for operators and miners to minimize the spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19 and actions MSHA is taking to do the same.

What should mine operators and miners do?

  • Avoid close contact: Put distance between yourself and other people (about 6 feet). This includes not crowding personnel carriers, hoists and elevators, or other means of transportation at the mine.
  • Clean and disinfect: Wipe down equipment and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Wash hands: If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.

See additional guidance on the CDC’s Prevention page https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/assessment-tool-for-nursing-homes.html

Mine safety campaign to reinforce operators’ obligation to train miners on the job properly

First published by MSHA

Photo property of MSHA

WASHINGTON – Over the past year, dozens of miners have been injured or killed in mining incidents, many of which could have been prevented with proper training and attention to tasks. This unacceptable trend has prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to initiate a new safety campaign to reach miners and educate mine operators on their responsibility to ensure a safe workplace and prevent deadly accidents.

The department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced the Take Time Save Lives campaign to reach miners, promote best practice resources, and ensure mine operators have the tools they need to fully train miners to use equipment.

“The purpose of this new campaign is simple: mine operators need to take the time to train miners on equipment and safety protocols, and miners need to take time to remember their training before they begin a task,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Jeannette Galanis. “While the Take Time Save Lives campaign specifically highlights best practices for frequently occurring incidents, our goal is to reach miners with a wide-ranging set of resources. MSHA will continue to ensure miners have the knowledge to stay safe on the job, but it’s up to mine operators to make sure that miners are fully trained and able to take time to follow best safety practices that can prevent deadly accidents.”

Miners and operators can find training resources and safety best practices for:

  • Powered haulage safety.
  • Roof and rib falls.
  • Fire suppression and prevention.
  • Fatality updates.

Read Acting Assistant Secretary Galanis’ blog post on the new safety campaign.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Bill would restore increased tax rate on coal to fund black lung disability benefits

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Washington — Proposed legislation would create funding for health care and other benefits for coal miners who have black lung disease by extending, for 10 years, a recently expired excise tax rate increase on coal production.

Black lung is another name for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis – a deadly condition caused by exposure to respirable coal mine dust.

The original increase excise tax rate, which supports the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, expired Dec. 31. H.R. 6462, introduced Jan. 20 by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Alma Adams (D-NC), would restore it. Although mine operators are generally responsible for paying black lung benefits, the fund helps finance benefits for miners and eligible survivors or dependents when no responsible mine operator is identifiable or the operator is out of business.

Effective Jan. 1, the tax rate fell to 50 cents a ton on underground coal and 25 cents a ton on surface coal – a 55% reduction from the previous rates of $1.10 and 55 cents, respectively. The fund already stands about $5 billion in debt, according to a press release from the House Education and Labor Committee, of which Scott is chair.

The release also cites a May 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office that concluded failure to extend the previous tax rate will swell the fund’s debt to roughly $15 billion by 2050.

“Long-term funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is a necessity,” Cecil Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America International, said in the release. “Miners are suffering from [black lung] because they dedicated their lives to providing this nation with electricity and steel. The least Congress could do is ensure that the benefits they depend on to survive will always be there.”

In a November 2020 report, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General notes that more than three times as many coal miners were identified as having black lung disease from 2010 to 2014 compared with 1995 to 1999.

“With the number of black lung cases rapidly increasing, Congress must take action to secure health care and benefits for disabled miners,” Adams said in the release. “We can’t allow the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to sink deeper into debt.”

In September, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced similar legislation (S. 2810). The bill hasn’t advanced past the Senate.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

MSHA publishes posters on wintertime hazards

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
msha-winter-safety-v3-3.jpg

Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration has published a series of posters intended to help mine operators mitigate hazards that occur during winter months.

Topics include limited visibility, slippery walkways, and freezing and thawing highwalls.

“Winter presents different challenges to miners, especially in those places with snow and ice,” MSHA says. “In addition to other safety measures, miners must take extra precautions in the winter months.”

Agency guidance for surface mines includes:

  • Remove snow and ice from roads and walkways.
  • Drive slowly and maintain distance between vehicles.
  • Check highwalls, benches and roadways, especially after each rain, freeze or thaw.
  • Examine equipment for exhaust leaks.
  • Maintain equipment to operate safely in cold weather.
  • Apply sand or salt to walkways to improve traction.
  • Always wear a seat belt when in vehicles.
  • Check for slip and trip hazards.
  • Wear footwear that grips.

For coal mines:

  • Properly ventilate the mine.
  • Apply liberal amounts of rock dust.
  • Conduct frequent examinations.

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.