New ‘examinations’ rule takes effect for underground mines

Date Posted
Caleb Kimpel

A new rule from the Mine Safety and Health Administration took effect this week. The rule, published in the April 6 Federal Register, calls on mine operators to address nine health and safety standards that contribute to  the most unsafe conditions for American miners who work underground.

The rule, “Examinations of Work Areas in Underground Coal Mines for Violations of Mandatory Health or Safety Standards,” went into effect Aug. 6 and requires that, during pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations, underground coal mine operators examine for violations health and safety standards that cover the following topics:

  • ventilation,
  • methane,
  • roof control,
  • combustible materials,
  • rock dust,
  • equipment guarding, and
  • other safeguards.

According to the MSHA, the nine hazards selected pose the greatest risk to miners year after year.

“These repeated violations expose miners to unnecessary safety and health risks that should be found and corrected by mine operators. The final rule… will increase the identification and correction of unsafe conditions in mines earlier, removing many of the conditions that could lead to danger, and improve protection for miners in underground coal mines,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

The new rule springs from an analysis of accident reports and enforcement data over the course of 5 years. The nine standards are consistent with the standards emphasized in MSHA’s Rules to Live By initiative and the types of violations cited in MSHA’s accident investigation report on the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion as contributing to the cause of that deadly accident.

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