On October 17, 2018, OIRA published the fall regulatory agenda for MSHA. The major regulatory priority on MSHA’s agenda continues to be an examination of the protections provided to reduce underground miners’ exposure to diesel exhaust and refuge alternatives for underground coal mines. The MSHA/NIOSH Diesel Health Effects Partnership convened its third meeting in July 2018 and attracted 50 stakeholders from across the industry spectrum to chart an effective path for change.

Pre-rule Stage 

  • Exposure of Underground Miners to Diesel Exhaust. The joint study by the National Cancer institute and the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health determined in March 2012 that exposure to diesel exhaust resulted in significant health risks including death from lung cancer. As a result, MSHA published an RFI in June 2016 to obtain input from stakeholders about the adequacy of its original standard for underground diesel exhaust and exposure to diesel particulate matter (DPM). Since 2016, MSHA has reopened the rulemaking record or extended the comment period at the request of stakeholders 5 times. In December 2016, the MSHA/NIOSH Diesel Effects Partnership began holding meetings with stakeholders to develop a plan for determining those technologies and strategies that would reduce the risk of health implications from DPM. On March 26, 2018, MSHA further extended the comment period at the request of stakeholders. At a third meeting held in July 2018, the MSHA/NIOSH Partnership and stakeholders agreed to form a committee comprised of stakeholder representatives to organize a 1-day workshop as an initial step to address critical issues. Next Steps: Next MSHA/NIOSH Partnership meeting to be announced. End of rulemaking  comment period expected March 26, 2019.
  • Regulatory Reform of Existing Standards and Regulations. Next Steps: RFI expected December 2018.
  • Alternatives to Petitions for Modification. Next Steps: RFI expected March 2019.
  • Retrospective Study of Respirable Coal Mine Dust Rule. Next Steps: An RFI was published on July 9, 2018. The RFI comment period is expected to end on July 9, 2019.
  • Safety Improvement Technologies for Mobile Equipment at Surface Mines and Belt Conveyors at Surface and Underground Mines. Beginning in June 2018 through September 2018, an RFI and stakeholder meetings in various cities occurred. Next Steps: The RFI comment period is expected to end on December 24, 2018.

Final Rule Stage

  • Refuge Alternative for Underground Coal Mines: Limited Reopening of the Record. In response to an Order from the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, MSHA re-opened the rulemaking record for the limited purpose of obtaining comments on the frequency of certain training periods regarding refuge alternatives for underground coal mines. Next Steps: MSHA expects to issue a final rule in December 2018 that either modifies or retains the existing rule.

The  long-term actions previously identified in MSHA’s 2018 Spring Unified Agenda, namely regulations focusing on Respirable Crystalline Silica and  Proximity Detection Systems for Mobile Machines in Underground Mines have disappeared from MSHA’s fall 2018 Unified Agenda entirely.