Nine MSHA Standards Given Extra Emphasis

A final rule that took effect Aug. 6 requires mine operators to correct hazardous conditions and violations of the nine, which address the highest-risk hazards facing miners.

A final rule took effect Aug. 6 requiring coal mine operators to conduct examinations and then correct hazardous conditions and violations of nine MSHA standards that the agency says address the highest-risk hazards facing miners. The nine also represent a link to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, according to the agency, which said the standards are consistent with the types of violations MSHA cited in that case. The April 2010 explosion at the West Virginia mine killed 29 miners and brought a record MSHA fine.

The standards concern ventilation, methane, roof control, combustible materials, rock dust, and equipment guarding.

Three months earlier, MSHA published the final rule that took effect Aug. 9. Its title is "Examinations of Work Areas in Underground Coal Mines for Violations of Mandatory Health or Safety Standards."

"Effective pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift, and weekly examinations are the first line of defense to protect miners working in underground coal mines," said Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. The agency analyzesd its accident reports and enforcement data for a five-year period and concluded the same types of violations are found by MSHA inspectors in underground coal mines every year. "These repeated violations expose miners to unnecessary safety and health risks that should be found and corrected by mine operators. The final rule, effective today, 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 Main.

The rule requires operators to record actions taken to correct hazardous conditions, as in the existing regulations, and violations of the nine standards. Additionally, they must review with mine examiners on a quarterly basis citations and orders issued in areas where pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift, and weekly examinations are required.

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