The Trump administration’s recent regulatory agenda boasts that in it, “agencies continue to identify ineffective regulations for revision and repeal.” With several potential rules in the early stages, is MSHA’s agenda on that course, or is it a notable exception?

In the Regulatory Agenda for Spring 2018 released by the White House Office of Management and Budget last month, MSHA lists a number of regulatory items that are at some stage of development, and it has a formal request for information (RFI) scheduled for this August to seek input on regulatory reform. However, to our knowledge, MSHA has not yet proposed the elimination or significant modification of any rules.

Instead, the agency has extended comment periods and issued Requests for Information (RFI) on a number of regulatory matters. Specifically, MSHA lists some stage of rulemaking effort for the following issues:

  • Powered haulage. Last week, MSHA issued an RFI requesting data on technologies that can reduce accidents involving powered haulage equipment. The RFI extends to conveyors, mobile equipment, and seat belt usage. Parts of it relate to both coal and metal/non-metal mines, surface and underground.
  • Silica. MSHA continues to review its standards limiting miners’ exposure to crystalline silica. In a 2014 publication, MSHA stated that its standards were outdated and planned to publish a proposed rule to address miners’ exposure to silica based on OSHA’s risk assessment and standards. Some MSHA officials have commented in public forums that they are looking to “put the ‘H’ [health] back in MSHA” and that the industry should expect a silica rule at some point. Others have been more circumspect. The timetable for MSHA’s next action on this rule is undetermined.
  • Diesel exhaust and diesel particulate matter. MSHA issued a request for information in 2016 that remains open through March 2019 regarding methods that would improve control of diesel particulate matter and diesel exhaust, as well as the sufficiency and effectiveness of existing controls and exposure limits.
  • Adding alternatives to regulations. MSHA says that it intends to issue an RFI in December 2018 to ask stakeholders about alternative safety measures that could be added to existing regulations and that are commonly approved in petitions for modification (PFMs). MSHA says this could save operators from having to submit PFMs on these issues.
  • Coal dust. MSHA plans to issue an RFI before the end of June 2018 and request comments on its retrospective study of MSHA’s 2014 final rule entitled “Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors (CPDMs).” The purpose of the RFI and MSHA’s review are to assess whether further rulemaking is appropriate. In particular, MSHA reviewed whether “1) the 1.5 mg/m3 respirable dust standard should be lowered to protect miners’ health; 2) the frequency of CPDM sampling should be increased; 3) engineering controls and work practices used by mine operators achieve and maintain the required respirable coal mine dust levels; and 4) samples taken on shifts longer than 8 hours should be converted to an 8-hour equivalent concentration to protect miners who work longer shifts.”
  • Underground coal mine refuge alternatives. MSHA intended to issue a final rule last month on the frequency of motor task, decision making, and expectation training for miners to deploy and use refuge alternatives in underground coal mines. The comment period was reopened in 2013 in response to a court order requiring MSHA to explain its rationale for annual, rather than quarterly, training on these subjects.

Stay tuned for news of further developments on these issues!