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.

Continue Reading What’s on MSHA’s agenda? Rulemaking.

During its recent quarterly stakeholder call, the Mine Safety and Health Administration announced a new “Fire Suppression Safety Initiative” (FSS) to ensure that fire suppression systems on mobile equipment are in working order and capable of extinguishing equipment fires. The initiative appears to involve educating operators about FSS, including proper inspections and maintenance, as well as stepping up related enforcement.

Continue Reading MSHA launches Fire Suppression Safety Initiative

One unique challenge on mine sites is the rule requiring a phone call to MSHA within 15 minutes of certain serious accidents. Operators otherwise consumed with emergency response must make quick, on-the-scene judgments about whether a miner’s medical condition is life threatening. With 20/20 hindsight, MSHA often disagrees with their decisions and issues citations. A recent case vacating a 15-minute reporting citation is a reminder that there are often good grounds to contest such allegations.

Continue Reading Recent case highlights key to defending MSHA immediate reporting citations: Totality of the circumstances

According to a recent court opinion, last month MSHA reached a settlement with a mining company that included removing the company from the list of operators with a “pattern of violations” (POV). While a 3-1 majority of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission agreed to dismiss the case, one commissioner dissented strongly.

Continue Reading MSHA removes mine from POV status in settlement and retiring commissioner objects

With the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, occupational safety and health professionals may be interested in the impact he may have on future cases involving OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, MSHA, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week has shown him to be thoughtful and very well qualified (not to mention incredibly patient).  At this point, it seems apparent to all that he will soon be confirmed by the Senate.

Continue Reading What might a Justice Kavanaugh mean for OSHA and MSHA?

Last week, MSHA announced a revamp of its Data Retrieval System web site. The site enables the public to search for information about particular mines, operators, and contractors, including their violation and enforcement histories. During early usage, the new site appeared to be more graphical, slightly more flexible, and somewhat slower than the previous version.

Continue Reading MSHA offers a new way to see your data

Here’s an all-too-familiar story with an all-too-uncommon ending. An MSHA inspector saw equipment positioned a certain way, assumed that someone had used it unsafely in that position, and issued a citation. A judge then upheld the citation by giving more weight to the inspector’s assumption than to the worker’s sworn testimony about how he acted safely. But, in this case, the mine operator refused to accept that unfair result. They appealed… and won.

Continue Reading Eight Circuit pushes ALJ’s reasoning over the highwall

On Tuesday, the Mine Safety and Health Administration announced a series of stakeholder meetings in August and September to discuss its pending request for information on “powered haulage” equipment. Given concerns that the RFI could lead to further rulemaking, many in industry are sure to take interest.

Continue Reading MSHA announces in-person and webinar stakeholder meetings on powered haulage

by Julia Banegas

How would the Trump administration’s government reorganization plan affect highly technical workplace safety programs, such as OSHA and MSHA? Part of the plan, announced June 21, 2018, proposes merging the Department of Labor (where OSHA and MSHA sit) and the Department Education into a new agency named the “Department of Education and the Workforce.”

Continue Reading What happens to safety agencies under plan to merge with Department of Education?