As its new workplace exam rule took effect this month, MSHA has been posting sample workplace exam forms that mine operators may wish to use. While MSHA does not explicitly say that the forms are “official” or “approved,” the implication is that MSHA would accept these forms as complying with the new rule.

The forms are available here as “sample templates and checklists.” At least a number of the forms were submitted to MSHA by private companies and trade associations. After reviewing the forms and apparently deeming them appropriate, MSHA posted them online.

The MSHA web page invites others to submit forms for review, as well: “If you wish to submit other samples of templates or checklists or similar compliance aids for MSHA review and potential posting, please send your materials to: Don Vickers, Metal and Nonmetal Safety Division,”

Are these forms the best to both comply and limit risk?

When re-designing workplace exam forms, mine operators should bear in mind that forms required to be kept by MSHA are the lowest-hanging fruit and easiest for MSHA to obtain for review. In addition, under the new workplace exam rule, operators must provide copies of the forms to miner representatives upon request (perhaps up to a year of forms).

As a result, mine operators have an interest in keeping the required forms to a minimum length due to the burden of duplication and production. Some mine operations conduct hundreds of thousands of examinations a year. Having forms that run just two pages instead of one would be a meaningful increase in copying and record management. Likewise, the forms contain information that MSHA may use against operators, such as details of adverse conditions or how long it took to correct issues.

Many mine operators understandably ask their employees to look for and document even more information than MSHA requires when they perform examinations. However, many also seek to limit their risk by collecting such non-required information on a perforated “tear-off” portion of the form or in an electronic database. In either case, the MSHA-required portions can be stored and produced separately from the non-required portions.

The first template published online by MSHA illustrates how limited the form can be in its barest format. Some of the other examples show just how extensive the records could become. The contrast underscores this question: Do you want to have to photocopy all of that information for miner’s representatives or produce it to MSHA simply because you kept it in the same place as legally-required details?