MSHA Releases New Guidance to Protect Miners from COVID-19

MSHA Releases New Guidance to Protect Miners from COVID-19

A new guidance from the Mine Safety and Health Administration outlines steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for coal miners.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced a stronger coronavirus safety guidance intended to keep coal miners safe from the coronavirus in the workplace. MSHA, notably, did not issue an emergency temporary standard, as the union had requested.

“This updated guidance provides U.S. mine operators with important recommendations for protecting miners from coronavirus,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Jeannette Galanis said in a statement.

Included in the guidance is a hazard assessment of mines, measures to control the viral spread of COVID-19 and company policies that do not punish miners who speak up about potential hazards or those who must miss work due to quarantine.

Miners had been near the top of the list for industry workers that might find it particularly hard to stop the spread of COVID-19 since their occupations require them to be in confined quarters much of their work days. Workers in the coal industry are also particularly susceptible to the virus due to the high prevalence of lung disease among workers who are exposed to coal and rock dust.

Under the past administration, MSHA had declined to implement an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 safety in mines. The agency argued that existing standards were sufficient, and that places with the highest number of working miners, such as West Virginia, had relatively low infection rates.

The guidance outlines 15 steps of a COVID-19 Prevention Program for those in the industry. To read the guidance in its entirety and the steps of the prevention program, visit msha.gov.

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