MSHA's Main Celebrates Agency's Progress

"In 2015, 28 miners lost their lives, the lowest number of deaths ever recorded in a single year.... I am proud to be part of this institution and its legacy," Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main wrote in a blog post honoring the agency on its 38th birthday.

Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main celebrated the 38th birthday of the Mine Safety and Health Administration with a post on the DOL blog about its progress to date. MSHA was created when the Department of the Interior's Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration was permanently transferred to the Department of Labor.

"To get a sense of mining's legislative history in this country, you have to go back to 1891, when Congress passed the first federal statute governing mine safety. In 1910, following a decade in which the number of coal mine fatalities exceeded 2,000 annually, Congress established the Bureau of Mines within DOI. It was granted no inspection authority until 1941, when federal inspectors were finally empowered to enter mines. Six years later, the first code of federal regulations for mine safety was authorized," Main wrote. "Fast forward to 1973, when the secretary of interior, through administrative action, created the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration as a new departmental agency separate from the Bureau of Mines. MESA assumed the safety and health enforcement functions formerly carried out by the bureau to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between the enforcement of mine safety and health standards and the bureau's responsibilities for mineral resource development. And on March 9, 1978, implementation of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 began, which included the transfer of MESA to the Labor Department, where it was renamed the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Like previous mining laws, this legislation was born out of mining injuries, illnesses, deaths and terrible mining disasters. Unlike the Coal Act of 1969, which was passed after national outrage over the deaths of 78 miners in West Virginia the previous year, it extended the same protections to workers at metal and nonmetal mining operations.

"Since its inception, MSHA has had a profound history of protecting the health and safety of our nation's miners, tackling many serious safety hazards and health risks. In 1978, 242 miners perished in mining accidents in the United States. The number steadily dropped over the years, and in 2015, 28 miners lost their lives, the lowest number of deaths ever recorded in a single year. Thanks to strategic enforcement initiatives such as impact inspections that quickly address problem mines, the pattern of violations tool that targets mines with chronic violations, the final respirable coal dust rule that will end black lung disease once and for all, compliance assistance, and training and outreach to the mining industry, more miners will return home to their loved ones, safe and healthy, after every shift. I am proud to be part of this institution and its legacy."

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