Hearings scheduled for drug, alcohol proposal

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration will extend the comment period regarding its proposed rulemaking on drug and alcohol usage in the nation’s mines.

Donna Schmidt

The safety watchdog has also scheduled web-based hearings for comments.

October 14 is the day that US operators, miners and other interested parties can offer input on the potential rulemaking.

Webcasts will begin in Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Englewood/Denver, Colorado at 9am.

The National Mining Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, West Virginia and industry individuals in Birmingham, Alabama can also listen in and contribute via an audio feed from their locations.

The hearings will adjourn at 5pm local time, or after the last speaker has presented.

The proposal was officially announced in the Federal Register on September 8, with a deadline for input of October 8. That deadline has been extended by the agency to midnight Eastern time on October 29.

The agency accepts comments via its Federal Rulemaking Portal, email, fax, regular mail and hand delivery/courier.

“Mining under the best of circumstances can be dangerous, and the use of alcohol and illegal substances creates additional, unnecessary hazards in the workplace,” MSHA acting assistant secretary for coal mine safety and health Richard Stickler said earlier this month.

“Miners do not operate alone. They have to work together to create a safe environment. If one miner is abusing substances, everyone’s safety is put at risk.”

The proposed rulemaking includes a prohibition on the possession and use of alcohol and/or drugs while on mine property, and requires the establishment of miner drug testing and training.

Additionally, all mine operators would be required to develop and install an alcohol and drug-free program at operations that allowed for referrals to assistance for regulation violators.

“The proposed rule also would require those miners who violate the prohibitions to be removed from the performance of safety-sensitive job functions until they complete the recommended treatment, and their alcohol and drug-free status is confirmed by a return-to-duty test,” the agency noted in the Federal Register documentation.

A complete copy of the potential rulemaking can be viewed at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr.

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