MSHA to Propose Drug & Alcohol Rule Next Month

MSHA published a summary Wednesday on its Web site of its latest semiannual regulatory agenda, and two items in the proposed rule stage stood out. The two are a proposed rule to address the safety risks of miners' use of alcohol and drugs on mine property and a rule to require rescue chambers in underground coal mines or facilities that provide at least the same measure of protection.

Drug and alcohol impairment among miners has been a significant concern for many years, one that is heightened by the rapid influx of new miners into the industry because of an older workforce and high worldwide demand for mined products. MSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for this rule on Oct. 4, 2005, in which the agency noted that some mine operators had said at a December 2004 MSHA summit on the topic that "a substantial number of job applicants are unable to pass an initial drug screen."

The rescue chamber rule is required by section 112(b) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, an omnibus appropriations bill covering the Labor Department, among others. This part of the bill requires MSHA to propose this regulation by June 15, consistent with the recommendations of NIOSH, and to finalize the regulation by Dec. 31, 2008.

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