MSHA decides that the White House’s Regulatory Freeze Does Not Apply to its New Rule

MSHA decided to move forward with its controversial Examination of Workplaces in Metal and Nonmetal Mines Rule without regard to a White House Memorandum requesting federal agencies to delay rules for sixty days. (see our Blog on this Rule from October  The Rule became final on January 23, 2017 with an effective date of May 23, 2017.  Although a White House Memorandum dated January 20, 2017 requested that all federal agencies delay the implementation of final rules for sixty days, MSHA determined that because this rule was already on public display on January 17, 2017, but not actually final until January 23, 2017, it could not be withdrawn.  And, if you are now wondering how this makes much sense (since the rule was not final by January 20th), MSHA further determined that regardless of this issue – whether it was a final rule covered by the memorandum or not – the final rule was not going to be effective until May 23, 2017.  Therefore, MSHA rationalized that since the implementation date was over sixty days away,  it would have plenty of time to review any issues created by the final rule prior to its effective date, which was ultimately the purpose of the January 20th White House Memorandum.  So, in other words, no harm no foul….

Whether all of this was the meaning and intent of the January 20th Memorandum or not, this likely leaves any decisions related to this rule to the new Assistant Secretary for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.  Now we wait to find out who that will be and the direction of MSHA during this Administration.

New Structural Failure Alert Issued

The MSHA Alliance Program recently issued a new safety alert, Structural Failure Alert: Best Practices to Prevent Structural Failures. The MSHA Alliance Program is a voluntary partnership program that allows MSHA to collaborate with industry groups to provide training and education, outreach and technical assistance to mine operators and miners on improving mine safety and health.

The latest publication under the MSHA Alliance Program focuses on preventing structural failures. The safety alert encourages operators to train miners and supervisors on some simple measures to help identify the signs of structural damage and prevent a potentially catastrophic incident.  Specifically, operators are reminded to make good housekeeping a priority by removing spillage and water build-up from around the base of structures, columns and off the flanges of horizontal beams since accumulation of wet material can cause corrosion.

Operators also are encouraged to have their safety and supervisory personnel inspect structures during audits and train miners on identifying and reporting structural problems.   The safety alert notes that operators should examine structural supports made out of steel, concrete, wood, masonry, aluminum and fiber-reinforced polymer during inspections, and it provides a list of the signs of structural damage that miners should be on the lookout for and report to management personnel if discovered.

The MSHA Alliance Program encourages operators to engage a qualified structural engineer if damage is detected and repairs are needed. In addition, the MSHA Alliance recommends that operators barricade and post warning signs around areas where structural problems may have been detected to prevent entry pending those repairs.

To learn more about the signs of structural damage and what miners should be on the lookout for, you can review the safety alert on MSHA’s webpage.

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.