MSHA may have its eyes on respirable dust. A focus on coal dust in recent years may be shifting to include silica. What started as a concern primarily in coal mines may soon lead to stricter rules and enforcement that affect both coal and metal/non-metal operators.

Indeed, MSHA’s recent regulatory agenda indicates that it plans to take the first step toward possible rulemaking on silica as early as next month. MSHA says it will issue a request for information (RFI) on silica for both coal and metal/non-metal. It plans to ask for information about reducing exposure limits for silica, new technologies to protect miners, and educational assistance.

What’s motivating these concerns? Read my recent Coal Age column for some key background.