The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) questioned Donald Trump’s nominee to be the new head of MSHA, David Zatezalo, about small mine compliance assistance and technological advances within the mine industry during his recent confirmation hearing. In response, Mr. Zatezalo expressed his support for reinstituting an independent Small Mines Office within MSHA. The main purpose of this office, first set up in 2003, is to provide compliance assistance and technical support to small mine operators. Mr. Zatezalo also stated that he would make it a priority to provide access to educational support for small mines, many of which may be more vulnerable to safety hazards and increased injuries and fatalities because they often lack the resources available to larger operators. The small mines office has diminished in importance in recent years, as MSHA focused on enforcement over education and assistance.
Assuming that Mr. Zatezalo is confirmed, the industry can expect more compliance assistance across the board. Mr. Zatezalo’s testimony also suggests the new MSHA administration may shift resources from enforcement to education, training, and technological initiatives. While rulemaking is expected to slow down under Mr. Zatezalo’s tenure, it will be interesting to see how the agency handles current proposed rules in the pipeline, such as the proposed workplace examination rule.