MSHA Offering $1M in Safety Grants

First published by MSHA

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a funding availability of up to $1 million in grants through its Brookwood-Sago grant program to support education and training to help the mining community identify, avoid and prevent unsafe and unhealthy working conditions in and around the nation’s mines.

Established by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, the program’s efforts to make mines safer and healthier honors 25 miners who perished in disasters at the Jim Walter Resources #5 mine in Brookwood, Alabama, in 2001 and at the Sago Mine in Buckhannon, West Virginia, in 2006.

Administered by the department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Brookwood-Sago grants will focus education and training programs on occupational hazards, including:

  • Exposures to respirable dust and crystalline silica.
  • Powered haulage and mobile equipment safety.
  • Mine emergency preparedness and rescue.
  • Electrical safety.
  • Contract and customer truck drivers.
  • Improving training for new and inexperienced miners, and managers and supervisors performing mining tasks.
  • Pillar safety for underground mines.
  • Falls from heights.

The grants may also support programs emphasizing training on miners’ statutory rights, including the right to a safe and healthy working environment, to refuse an unsafe task, and to have a voice in the safety and health conditions at the mine. Recipients may use the grant funding to develop educational and training materials, recruit mine operators and miners for the training, and to conduct and evaluate training.

In awarding the grants, MSHA will give special emphasis to education and training programs that target miners at smaller mines and underserved populations in the mining industry. They will also prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion.

Learn more or submit a grant application. The closing date for applications is Aug. 23, 2022. MSHA will award grants on or before Sept. 30, 2022. Learn more about MSHA.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

DOL Finds Illinois Mine Operator Tried to Conceal Underground Fire

First published by MSHA

MSHA finds M-Class Mining didn’t tell miners of a dangerous fire hazard, continued operations

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has proposed nearly $1.2 million in civil penalties to M-Class Mining LLC, a Macedonia, Illinois, coal mine operator. MSHA cited the operator for continuing to operate the mine without evacuating miners with a fire underground and failing to notify MSHA of the fire. The fire broke out on a longwall section on Aug. 13, 2021.

Late on the morning of Aug. 14, 2021, after learning of the unextinguished fire through an anonymous complaint, MSHA issued an order to withdraw all miners from the mine and began an accident investigation. The investigation found that the operator allowed continued coal production and did not take immediate actions to protect the safety and health of miners.

Specifically, MSHA inspectors determined M-Class Mining LLC failed to follow the approved Mine Emergency Evacuation and Firefighting Program and evacuate the miners; did not notify MSHA within 15 minutes of the fire’s start as the law requires; and failed to fully comply with federal orders to withdraw miners from the mine.

“M-Class Mining LLC deliberately jeopardized the lives of the very miners it was responsible for protecting, and violated numerous important safety and health standards in the process,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “The fact that this operator continued business as usual while miners underground had no idea there was an ongoing fire hazard more than justifies the civil penalties that we propose.”

MSHA issued 14 citations to the M-Class mine, including 10 related to the operator’s reckless disregard for the miners’ safety and health. Two of the 10 proposed citations are flagrant: for the operator not evacuating the mine when the fire was located, and for allowing miners to work underground without being tracked by the mine tracking system. A flagrant violation may be assessed the highest penalty allowed by law.

MSHA has assessed $1,165,396 in proposed penalties for the violations.

M-Class Mining LLC has 30 days to pay or contest the violation or penalties to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.


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US Department of Labor takes action to reduce miners’ exposure to silica dust as work continues on an improved health standard

First published by MSHA

MSHA launched unprecedented effort to protect miners
from serious illnesses such as black lung disease, silicosis

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has launched a new enforcement initiative to better protect the nation’s miners from health hazards resulting from repeated overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. MSHA reports silica dust affects thousands of miners each year and, without adequate protection, miners face risks of serious illnesses, many of which can be fatal.

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust. Materials like sand, stone, concrete and mortar contain crystalline silica. Respirable crystalline silica – minute particles at least 100 times smaller than ordinary beach sand – becomes airborne during cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing stone and rock.

Without proper protections and engineering controls in place, miners can be exposed to dangerous levels of crystalline silica particles, which increases their risk of developing serious silica-related diseases. These conditions include incurable lung diseases such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, commonly referred to as “black lung;” progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe form of black lung; silicosis; lung and other cancers; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and kidney disease.

“Simply put, protecting miners from unhealthy levels of silica cannot wait,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. “We are committed to using every tool in MSHA’s toolbox to protect miners from developing debilitating and deadly lung diseases that are entirely preventable. We have seen too many miners carrying oxygen tanks and struggling to breathe just to take a few steps or do the simplest of tasks after having their lungs destroyed by toxic levels of respirable dust.”

“Our agency is working hard and is committed to issuing a silica rule that will enhance health protections for all miners. The enforcement initiative that we are announcing today is a step we can take now while we continue the rulemaking process toward the development of an improved mandatory health standard,” Williamson added.

As part of the program, MSHA will conduct silica dust-related mine inspections and expand silica sampling at mines, while providing mine operators with compliance assistance and best practices to limit miners’ exposure to silica dust.

Specifically, the silica enforcement initiative will include:

  • Spot inspections at coal and metal nonmetal mines with a history of repeated silica overexposures to closely monitor and evaluate health and safety conditions.
  • Increased oversight and enforcement of known silica hazards at mines with previous citations for exposing miners to silica dust levels over the existing permissible exposure limit of 100 micrograms. For metal and nonmetal mines where the operator has not timely abated hazards, MSHA will issue a 104(b) withdrawal order until the silica overexposure hazard has been abated. For coal mines, MSHA will encourage changes to dust control and ventilation plans to address known health hazards.
  • Expanded silica sampling at metal and nonmetal mines to ensure inspectors’ samples represent the mines, commodities, and occupations known to have the highest risk for overexposure.
  • A focus on sampling during periods of the mining process that present the highest risk of silica exposure for miners. For coal mines, those processes include shaft and slope sinking, extended cuts and developing crosscuts, while metal and nonmetal sampling will focus on miners working to remove overburden.
  • Reminding miners about their rights to report hazardous health conditions, including any attempt to tamper with the sampling process.

In addition, Educational Field and Small Mine Services staff will provide compliance assistance and outreach to mine operators, unions and other mining community organizations to promote and advance protections for miners.

The recently launched MSHA initiative is intended to take immediate action to reduce the risks of silica dust exposure as the department’s development of a mining industry standard continues.

Silica Enforcement Initiative 


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Federal appeals court unanimously rules Kentucky mine operator illegally gave advance notice of inspection to miners underground

First published by MSHA

 

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court has ruled unanimously that the operator of a Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, coal mine violated the federal Mine Safety and Health Act more than a decade ago by giving underground miners advance notice that mine inspectors were conducting an inspection.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on May 11, 2022, is the latest action in long-standing litigation involving an incident on April 20, 2012, at the Paradise No. 9 mine, operated by KenAmerican Resources Inc.

During a statutorily required inspection, U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors were monitoring a phone used to contact miners underground when, as they prepared to descend, they overheard someone down in the mine ask the dispatcher on the surface level if they “have company outside,” to which the dispatcher responded affirmatively.

MSHA inspectors then issued a citation to KenAmerican Resources Inc. for providing advance notice of an inspection. Federal law prohibits mine operators from such notice.

The mine operator appealed the citation, arguing the law against giving advance notice of an inspection does not apply to mine operators. They also argued that they had only provided advance notice that MSHA was “at the mine,” and had not provided advance notice of an inspection. The operator also argued the citation violated their free-speech rights.

“The 6th Circuit has reaffirmed that KenAmerican Resources Inc.’s actions violated federal law,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Mine workers are safer when federal inspectors can see mine conditions as they exist on a day-to-day basis, not when conditions have been altered to avoid violations.”

In its decision, the court rejected all arguments made to challenge the citation and held that the law plainly prohibits operators from providing advance notice. The court also found the case’s facts clearly show the mine’s operator provided advance notice that MSHA inspectors were conducting an inspection.

“Our statutorily mandated inspections are at the heart of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement program. This decision affirms MSHA’s ability to conduct inspections without interference from mine operators as Congress intended,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Christopher J. Williamson.


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Tips to limit dust exposure in mines

First published by NIOSH

NIOSH has published a booklet that provides solutions that you can use to reduce exposure to dust at surface mines and facilities. Practical controls are presented that not only lower dust exposures but also reduce the risks for both musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and traumatic injuries (e.g., slips, trips, and falls). Beyond the obvious health benefits, it can be easier to justify engineering controls and interventions when greater impact can be achieved.

While traumatic injuries occur suddenly, both MSDs and respirable diseases tend to be the result of cumulative overexposures. Exposures both at home and at the workplace can combine and manifest themselves in the later years of your career, depending on your exposure rates and cumulative stress.

The information provided is based on experience gained within NIOSH and highlights solutions that are relatively low in cost and easy to implement. Dust control solutions that are practical to maintain have the greatest potential for sustained use and ultimately improved mine worker health and safety. This booklet is only a primer on dust control and injury prevention at metal/nonmetal mining operations. Additional resources are provided for more comprehensive coverage of these topics.


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 – Mine Fatality #34

First published by MSHA

MINE FATALITY – On December 4, 2021, a miner was performing maintenance duties on a continuous mining machine (CMM) when the raised CMM tail boom lowered, resulting in fatal crushing injuries to the miner.

Accident scene where a miner was performing maintenance duties on a continuous mining machine (CMM) when the raised CMM tail boom lowered, resulting in fatal crushing injuries to the miner.
Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration
Best Practices: 
  • Before performing maintenance and repair work:
    • De-energize the power source.
    • Open the visual disconnect.
    • Lock and tag the visual disconnect.
    • Securely block equipment against hazardous motion in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Provide sufficient space around equipment to perform work safely.
  • Develop and implement procedures to complete tasks safely.
  • Train all miners to perform their assigned tasks safely.
  • Operators should implement procedures to address hazards that cause injury.
Additional Information:

This is the 34th fatality reported in 2021, and the sixth classified as “Machinery.”


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.

Reopened: MSHA comment period on proposing written programs for powered haulage safety

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Arlington, VA — Responding to public request, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has reopened, until Feb. 11, the comment period on a proposed rule that would require mine operators employing at least six miners to establish a written safety program for mobile and powered haulage equipment.

First published in the Sept. 9 Federal Register, the proposal is intended to improve safety at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines. According to the agency, a successful written safety program would include actions mine operators could take to identify hazards and risks with the objective of mitigating incidents, injuries and fatalities related to surface mobile equipment. The proposed rule excludes belt conveyors.

Overall, 17 of the 37 miner fatalities reported by MSHA in 2021 involved powered haulage incidents. The preliminary total comes after six straight years in which fewer than 30 miners died on the job.

During a Dec. 14 conference call for industry stakeholders, MSHA noted that five of the 10 occupational fatalities among miners from Oct. 1 to Dec. 13 involved powered haulage.

“I think the fatalities that we went through and the sheer number of them should be a sobering reality for all of us, and the work that needs to get done both at the mine site and at the management table,” acting MSHA administrator Jeannette Galanis said during the call. “So, we look forward to seeing leadership on this from our mine operators, especially around powered haulage.”

On Nov. 1, MSHA launched an enforcement initiative focused on powered haulage that comprises both targeted inspection and special emphasis components. Speaking during the stakeholder conference call, Nancy Rooney, administrator of enforcement for MSHA, said common violations to date have included failure to guard moving machine parts; defects in equipment, machinery or tools; and failure to maintain audible warning devices.

The initial comment period on the proposed rule ended Nov. 8.


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: ‘Work with us’ as powered haulage, other concerns persist

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

accident-classifications.jpg

Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration

Arlington, VA — Officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration covered familiar ground Dec. 14 during a conference call for industry stakeholders.

The phrase “you’ve heard this from us before” or similar variations proved popular during the hourlong proceeding, and MSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations Patricia Silvey reiterated that the reasoning was simple.

“It hits us hard when a miner’s life is lost because it’s felt not just here and it’s felt not just by the miner and the miner’s family, it’s felt in the community and beyond,” Silvey said. “So we’re asking you, just continue to work with us.

“Working together, we’ll get there.”

MSHA noted that five of the 10 fatal on-the-job injuries among miners from Oct. 1 to Dec. 13 involved powered haulage. Those include a Dec. 13 fatality in Liberty, TX, in which a customer truck driver standing in front of his haul truck was run over when the vehicle rolled forward.

Overall, 17 of the 37 miner fatalities reported by MSHA as of Dec. 15 involved powered haulage incidents.

In the Sept. 9 Federal Register, MSHA published a proposed rule that would require mine operators employing at least six miners to establish a written safety program for mobile and powered haulage equipment. Per the agency, a successful program would include actions mine operators could take to identify hazards and risks with the objective of mitigating incidents, injuries and fatalities related to surface mobile equipment.

Although the initial comment period ended Nov. 8, acting MSHA administrator Jeannette Galanis said during the call that the agency is slated to publish a notice reopening rulemaking for public comment and announcing a virtual public hearing on Jan. 11.

Further, on Nov. 1, the agency launched an enforcement initiative focused on powered haulage. Nancy Rooney, administrator of enforcement for MSHA, said the initiative has two components: targeted inspection and special emphasis.

Rooney said common violations to date include failure to guard moving machine parts; defects in equipment, machinery or tools; and failure to maintain audible warning devices.

MSHA provides multiple best practices for powered haulage.

Other agency matters addressed during the call:

  • MSHA is still awaiting confirmation of a permanent agency leader. President Joe Biden on Nov. 12 nominated Christopher Williamson, senior counsel to National Labor Relations Board Chair Lauren McFerran, for the post. “We don’t know when the Senate will schedule the nomination hearing, and we haven’t gotten any indication from them,” Galanis said.
  • In lieu of establishing an emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and masking, agency officials continue to point to updated guidance – issued by MSHA in March – that advises mine operators at coal, metal and nonmetal mines to create a virus protection program or augment an existing one. “We’re in constant flux, and MSHA is going to follow the science on this,” Galanis said. “Mines were not included in the OSHA ETS for either masking or for the vaccine ETS mandate. So, we create our own mandates, our own ETSs. We have not created one around this, and we continue to monitor the situation and work directly with mine operators on our COVID guidance.”
  • A proposed rule on respirable crystalline silica is included in the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda for Fall 2021, released Dec. 10. “MSHA is currently working on developing a new silica standard, as all of you know, to reduce miners’ exposure to respirable silica,” Galanis said, “and we’re also effectively addressing health concerns so that all miners are safe on the job.”

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.

Pillar collapses prompt MSHA video on underground mine safety

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

stone-mine.jpg

Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration

A new video from the Mine Safety and Health Administration is intended to raise awareness of pillar collapses in underground mines.

Although no injuries resulted from four massive pillar collapses recorded by the agency since October 2020, the video urges mine workers and operators to take action to evaluate and address hazards common to pillar collapse incidents.

During the six-minute video, MSHA displays diagrams detailing how pillar collapses occur as well as footage of an air blast resulting from a pillar collapse in August.

The act of benching, or mining the floor, changes the overall dimensions of support pillars and often is a root cause of pillar collapses.

“After the floor is mined, pillars are taller than when they were initially developed, but their width remains the same,” the video states. “The result is a tall, slender pillar with a decreased ability to support the roof. The stability of tall, slender pillars can be further impacted by inadequate survey control, poor blasting techniques, weathering or geologic features.”

Pillars with an hourglass shape or showing recent rock spalling from the rib are at particular risk of collapse, the agency says. Dangers to miners include a fall of the roof, smaller rock falls and air blasts.

“Miners may be exposed to an air blast at great distances from the location of the pillar collapse,” MSHA says, citing haul roads, travel ways, crushers, shops, portal entrances and explosives magazines as areas that potentially may be affected.

Additionally, sink holes commonly result from pillar collapses and can pose danger to surface miners working above the collapsed area.

MSHA advises mine workers to listen for falling rock or sounds of the ground working, and report any concerns to mine management or the local MSHA office.

“MSHA will be reaching out to mine operators and discussing these hazards and best practices with miners,” the video states.


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.