In a Final Rule published by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) on April 9, 2018, the agency amended certain changes made to the Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines final rule which was published on January 23, 2017.  The updated rules were set to go into effect on May 23, 2017, but MSHA delayed the effective date several times and eventually stayed the rule to June 2, 2018.

MSHA sought this extension and proposed a limited reopening of the rulemaking record to allow additional comments on the scope of the changes to the examination rules. Specifically, MSHA was interested in further comments on when working place examinations must begin and what adverse conditions and corrective actions that must be included in the working place examinations record.  The comment period on these proposed limited changes closed on November 13, 2017 and MSHA conducted several public hearings to provide members of the public an opportunity to offer comments.

Now with the comment period closed, MSHA has finalized the following revisions to the rule which will go into effect starting June 2, 2018:

  • A competent person examine each working place for conditions that may adversely affect the safety or health of miners. The working place must be examined at least once each shift, before work begins or as miners begin work in that place. MSHA will continue to permit mine operators to conduct an examination on the previous shift, but since conditions at mines can change, the rule directs operators to examine at a time sufficiently close to the start of the next shift to minimize miners’ potential exposure to conditions that may adversely affect their safety or health;
  • Promptly initiate appropriate corrective action when adverse conditions are found;
  • Promptly notify miners in affected areas if adverse conditions are found and not corrected before miners are potentially exposed;
  • Withdraw all persons from affected areas when alerted to any conditions that may present an imminent danger, until the danger is abated;
  • Create an examination record before the end of each shift that includes:

– The name of the person conducting the examination;

– Date of the examination;

– Location of all areas examined;

– A description of each condition found that may adversely affect the safety or health of miners that is not promptly corrected (This final rule reduces the mine operator’s recordkeeping burden by requiring that the examination record include only a description of each adverse condition that is not corrected promptly); and

– The date when the described condition is corrected.

  • Make the examination record available to MSHA and miners’ representatives, with a copy provided upon request.

MSHA has stated that these changes to the rules provides mine operators additional flexibility in managing their safety and health programs and reduces regulatory burdens without reducing the protections afforded miners. As part of this Final Rule, MSHA has also announced that it will hold public meetings around the country to inform and educate the mining community on the requirements of the final rule.  The complete meeting schedule is listed here.