Appeals court sides with unions: No mine examinations during shifts

Photo: davidmariuz/iStockphoto

Washington — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has vacated a 2018 amendment to a 2017 Mine Safety and Health Administration rule that allowed a competent person to inspect the workplace as miners began work rather than prior to a shift – a decision United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts calls “a victory for miners everywhere.”

The court issued its judgment in favor of petitioners UMWA and United Steelworkers, among others, June 11, ruling that the pre-amendment standard be reinstated: Examinations must take place before miners begin their shifts.

“Because the 2018 amendment allows miners to work in an area before the examination is completed, there is the likelihood that miners may be exposed to an adverse condition before it is discovered,” the ruling states.

UMWA and USW applauded the court’s decision.

“Metal and nonmetal miners can now be more confident that their workplace is as safe as it can be before their shift starts, instead of learning about a safety hazard after they are already in the mine,” Roberts said in a June 12 press release. “All miners, whether working in a metal/nonmetal mine or a coal mine, should celebrate this ruling because it prevents MSHA from rolling back critical safety and health standards. If the agency had been allowed to get away with this, there is no question that we would soon be looking at a host of other attempts to reduce safety standards in every mine in America.”

The final rule amending provisions to the original rule was delayed numerous times before taking effect June 2, 2018.

Long shifts, inexperience boost miners’ injury risk: study

Long workdays and being new on the job are two factors that may heighten the risk of workplace injuries among miners, a recent study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago analyzed nearly 546,000 Mine Safety and Health Administration Part 50 worker injury reports filed between 1983 and 2015. They found that 9.6% of the miners logged shifts of at least nine hours on the day they were injured, including 5.5% of miners in 1983 and 13.9% of miners in 2015. Miners involved in shifts of such length were 32% more likely to suffer work-related fatalities and 73% more likely to be part of an incident that caused injuries to multiple miners. Risk factors associated with injuries related to working long hours include lack of routine, irregular schedules, specific mining activities and having less than two years on the job.

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