MSHA publishes posters on wintertime hazards

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
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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

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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.

MSHA won’t mandate COVID-19 vaccines, testing, acting administrator says

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration will not require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly negative testing at the nation’s mines, Jeanette Galanis, MSHA deputy assistant secretary for policy and acting administrator, said during a Sept. 29 stakeholder conference call.

Galanis called the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 “one of the strongest worker protection acts in the world.” Under the act, MSHA can issue hygiene citations and temporarily shut down mine operations at facilities in which the coronavirus is found to be spreading, a provision “very different” than the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, under which OSHA operates. An emergency rule under development by OSHA will require employers with at least 100 workers to ensure full vaccination or weekly negative testing of their workforce.

Galanis and other agency officials on the call pointed to updated guidance, issued by MSHA in March, that advises mine operators at coal, metal and nonmetal mines to establish a virus protection program or augment an existing one. Best practices include:

  • Conduct a hazard assessment of the mine site.
  • Identify various measures that help limit the spread of COVID-19 in mines.
  • Adopt measures to ensure miners who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home.
  • Implement anti-retaliation measures for miners who raise concerns related to COVID-19.

The guidance also includes recommendations on the use of personal protective equipment, physical distancing strategies, improving ventilation, effective hygiene and routine cleaning.

“We must be able to inspect mines during COVID,” Galanis said, “and so our mine inspectors are doing their jobs and getting out there and trying to be as careful as possible.”


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.

No mines meet criteria for Pattern of Violations notice: MSHA

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

See the source image

Arlington, VA — For the seventh successive screening period, none of the nation’s 12,000 mines received a Pattern of Violations notice from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the agency has announced.

MSHA’s most recent screening period began Aug. 1, 2020, and ended July 31. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 authorizes the agency to issue POV notices to operators who “demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of significant and substantial violations.” A January 2013 final rule allows MSHA to consider extenuating circumstances before issuing a POV notice and prompts operators to fix problems should they approach the threshold of a POV.

MSHA offers separate online tools intended to assist with compliance. POV monitoring notifies mine operators who are approaching POV status and alerts them to take corrective action. Via the S&S rate calculator, mine operators can track “significant and substantial” violations.

“While the Pattern of Violations provision gives us an enhanced enforcement tool that alerts us to mine operations with the most serious violations, we know more must be done to prevent mining fatalities,” Jeannette Galanis, MSHA’s deputy assistant secretary for policy and acting administrator, said in a Sept. 30 press release. “We have seen too many tragic incidents in 2021 and we encourage mine operators to intensify their efforts to ensure the safety, health and well-being of their miners.”

According to MSHA data through Sept. 21, 27 miners have died on the job this year. Twenty-nine miners suffered fatal work-related injuries in 2020.


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 awards $1M Brookwood-Sago grants for mine safety education

First published by MSHA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced the award of $1 million in Brookwood-Sago Mine Safety grant program funding to support education and training to help identify, avoid and prevent unsafe working conditions in and around the nation’s mines.

“We are seeing an increase in mining fatalities, particularly powered haulage fatalities, and we must reverse this trend. The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s top priority is the safety and well-being of people working in and around mines,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Jeannette J. Galanis. “Mine workers are a critical resource and grants like these help support the mining community’s training and education needs and promote ways to protect miners better.”

Established by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, the program honors 25 miners who died in mine disasters at the Jim Walter Resources #5 mine in Brookwood, Alabama, in 2001, and at the Sago Mine in Buckhannon, West Virginia, in 2006.

Brookwood-Sago grants enable recipients to develop training materials, provide mine safety training or educational programs, recruit mine operators and miners for the training, and conduct and evaluate the training. They are a critical part of MSHA’s emphasis on programs and materials for miners at smaller mines, including training miners and employers about new federal standards and high-risk activities or hazards that MSHA identifies.

The grant recipients are as follows:

  • Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona in Tucson received $140,000 to develop app-based training materials to enhance training for belt conveyor safety, electrical hazards, and accidents with powered haulage.
  • Colorado Department of Natural Resources in Denver received $95,000 to develop an innovative video that will focus the need for mitigation for mine emergencies, risk, preparedness and readiness assessments.
  • Colorado School of Mines in Golden received $95,000 to develop an energy-based hazard recognition-training module.
  • Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy in Big Stone Gap received $50,000 to provide virtual reality training to simulate real time conditions at mine sites.
  • Trustees of Indiana University in Bloomington received $50,000 to develop training materials aimed at preventing respiratory hazards, particularly those associated with mining operations and recent biohazards including the coronavirus.
  • Local 49 IUOE Apprenticeship and Training Program in Hinckley, Minnesota, received $50,000 to develop a training simulation device that will simulate training scenarios that involve fall protection, respiratory protection, working in confined spaces, electrical hazard awareness and powered haulage awareness.
  • Marshall University Research Corp. in Huntington, West Virginia, received $130,000 to develop videos on powered haulage safety, fire safety emergency preparedness and personal protective equipment.
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City received $120,000 to provide virtual reality training materials on mine emergency prevention and awareness.
  • Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Cumberland received $50,000 to develop new training material for Part 46 and Part 48 for miners.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington received $50,000 to develop disaster prevention and preparedness training materials for the mining community.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington received $70,000 to develop and implement virtual reality based training materials to prevent or reduce powered haulage accidents in small mines.
  • United Mine Workers of America Career Centers, Inc., in Prosperity, Pennsylvania, received $50,000 to develop a two-segment multimedia instructional package on Belt Conveyor Safety Awareness, and Mine Emergency Escape Interactive Exercises.
  • West Virginia Research Corporation in Morgantown received $50,000 to provide emergency prevention and preparedness training to coal miners and coal mine operators in the areas of Self Contained Self Rescuer expectations and mine rescue.

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 #26

First published by MSHA

MINE FATALITY – On September 15, 2021, a 33-year-old contract welder was fatally injured when he crawled 40 feet into a 30-inch-diameter stainless-steel pipe.  The victim was welding a joint from the outside of the pipe, and then entered the pipe to troubleshoot issues related to argon gas leakage.  Coworkers found him unresponsive.

Accident scene where a contract welder was fatally injured when he crawled 40 feet into a 30-inch-diameter stainless-steel pipe
Photo property of MSHA
Best Practices:
  • Remove dangerous working materials and gasses by means of a high volume of fresh airflow before entering confined spaces.
  • Assess risks and hazards before beginning work activities to determine what personal protective equipment (PPE) and atmospheric testing is needed prior to entry and during work execution.
  • Test atmospheres from a safe location with a calibrated gas monitor capable of detecting harmful and noxious gasses before entering and continuously while working in confined spaces.
  • Designate a miner to maintain contact with the miner entering a confined space in the form of visual or voice contact, or signal lines.
  • Ensure miners use the appropriate PPE, including dry, flame-retardant clothing and respiratory protection equipment, such as powered air-purifying respirators.
  • Train miners to identify confined spaces and understand their associated hazards.
Additional Information:

This is the 26th fatality reported in 2021, and the first classified as “Other.”


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 stand-down for powered haulage safety set for July 20

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
Stand down for Safety Day
Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration

Arlington, VA — Alarmed by a recent surge in fatal and nonfatal work-related injuries involving powered haulage activity, the Mine Safety and Health Administration on July 20 will host a national Stand Down for Safety Day to help educate miners and employers in a bid to reduce injuries.

“All levels of MSHA enforcement staff will visit mines to meet with miners and operators,” the agency says. “MSHA staff will emphasize the need to comply with best safety practices for powered haulage, vehicle rollovers and miner training.”

The agency reports that, as of July 15, nine fatalities and 185 nonfatal injuries related to powered haulage have occurred this year.

On. Jan. 13, MSHA announced that 29 miners died on the job last year, marking the sixth straight year in which the annual total was below 30. Although the agency reported a significant decrease in deaths related to powered haulage in 2020 – 21% of the overall total – fatalities involving the activity have made up about half of miner fatalities so far this year, according to data presented June 9 during a virtual conference call for injury stakeholders.

MSHA offers numerous best practices for powered haulage:

For surface operations:

  • Always dump material in a safe location.
  • Always construct substantial berms as a visual indicator to prevent over travel.
  • Establish safe traffic patterns with proper signage.
  • Chock wheels or turn them into a bank when parking mobile equipment on a grade.

For underground operations:

  • Stop and sound audible warning device before tramming equipment through ventilation curtains.
  • Look in the direction of travel and stay in the operator’s compartment while operating mobile equipment.
  • Install reflective signs or warning lights in low clearance areas.

For conveyors:

  • Design, install and maintain guards.
  • Lock and tag conveyors before performing work.

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.

Mental illness an ‘unrecognized crisis’ among miners with black lung, study shows

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Charlottesville, VA — Coal miners with black lung disease commonly face various mental health issues, including thoughts of suicide, results of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia show.

The researchers examined data from more than 2,800 coal miners who were evaluated for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder through a voluntary survey at Stone Mountain Health Services, a black lung clinic in Jonesville, VA. The average age of the participants – an overwhelming majority of whom were white males – was 66.

More than 1 out of 3 participants reported symptoms consistent with a major depressive disorder (37.4%) or had clinically significant anxiety (38.9%). Additionally, 26.2% exhibited symptoms of PTSD and 11.4% had considered suicide in the past year. The percentage of suicidal thoughts among all men in Virginia is 2.9.

The researchers note that the percentage “of mental illness far exceeded those documented in coal mining populations internationally.” Miners who need supplemental oxygen to assist with breathing showed accelerated rates of suicidal thoughts (15.9%), anxiety (47.7%) and depression (48.5%).

“This study highlights the unrecognized crisis of mental illness in miners that warrants urgent attention, resources and expanded care,” Drew Harris, lead study author and pulmonary medicine expert at UVA Health, said in a press release, adding that the percentage of “mental illness identified in this large population of U.S. coal miners is shocking. Improved screening and treatment of mental illness in this population is an urgent, unmet need that warrants urgent action.”

Also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, black lung is a deadly but preventable condition. Rates of black lung disease have more than doubled over the past 15 years, says NIOSH, which adds that symptoms may include coughing, excessive phlegm, shortness of breath, labored breathing and chest tightness.

The agency provides free, confidential health screenings through its Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program.

The study was published online May 25 in JAMA Network Open.


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.