MSHA Issues New October Safety Alert

MSHA issued a new Seasonal Safety Alert this month.  The “Deadly October” Safety Alert  highlights the  high number of miner deaths that occurred during the month of October from 1998 through 2015 and the best practices that could prevent future deaths.

MSHA found that 61 miners died at metal and nonmetal operations during “Deadly October” over the last 17 years, with an average of more than three fatal accidents each October since 1998. MSHA concluded that 1999 was the deadliest October in the review period with 10 deaths and 2015 was the safety October with zero deaths.

MSHA found that the most common types of accidents – totaling 46% of the total number of accidents during the last 17 “Deadly Octobers”– were, at number one, “powered haulage” and, at number two, “fall of person”.  MSHA concluded that the mining community could prevent future “power haulage” and “fall of person” accidents and possible fatalities by complying with the “Rules To Live By” standards and by adopting MSHA’s best practices:

  • Plan and discuss the work before starting the job, and ask for questions to be certain that all miners understand how to operate safely.
  • Wear personal protective equipment, including hard hat, safety shoes, glasses and gloves at a minimum. If working at height, use a fall protection harness and lanyard attached to a secure anchorage.
  • For infrequent jobs that are common this time of year due to seasonal work, task training completed in the past may need to be reviewed again with miners before beginning the task. Conduct safety meetings as needed. Multiple meetings during the week may be necessary.
  • If contractors are working on the job, a contractor training plan is required, and miner training must be complete and current. Contractors must comply with MSHA’s regulations, and they must work safely.

MSHA acknowledged there had been significant gains between the mining community and MSHA in reducing the number of deaths in the last seven years and was hoping that October 2016 would end with zero fatalities. To help make October 2016 fatality free, MSHA will conduct “walk and talks” this month to focus on fatality prevention.

MSHA’s Proposed Rule “Examination of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal (MNM) Mines” Draws Criticism

In June, MSHA issued a proposed rule that would require metal and nonmetal mine operators (1) to conduct an exam of the working place before miners begin work in an area, (2) to inform miners in the work place of any conditions that may impact their safety or health, and (3) to have the competent person that conducts the exam document, sign and date the exam, its findings and corrective actions at the end of each shift.

Currently, operators are required to conduct workplace examinations at least once each shift and maintain examination records for one year.

MSHA held public hearings and public comments on the proposed rule were accepted until September 30, 2016. Some commenters raised concerns that such a rule would only serve as additional enforcement actions and citations against mine operators and such revisions were unnecessary. Other commenters raised issues related to the benefits and costs of the proposed rule and how the proposed rule would reduce injuries and fatalities.  Some commenters requested MSHA to clarify the definition of “working place” and the timing of the examination, specifically that the exams should occur at the beginning of work in the work area as opposed to beginning at the start of each shift.

Supporters of the rule, including the United Mine Workers of America, noted “the current federal law is nowhere near stringent enough to adequately protect miners….”

MSHA is currently reviewing the comments submitted.