The proposed rule, Examinations of Work Areas in Underground Coal Mines for Violations of Mandatory Health or Safety Standards, would have an impact on pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations.
It would require operators to perform complete workplace examinations, correct violations, and each quarter review all citations and orders with mine examiners in areas where these types of examination are required.
“Examinations are the first line of defense for miners working in underground coal mines,” MSHA assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.
“Mine operators must take ownership for their workers’ health and safety by conducting basic workplace examinations to assure they are in compliance with health and safety standards. At the beginning of the shift, miners in an underground coal mine are particularly vulnerable to hazards and conditions in the workplace that may have developed during the prior shift – the examinations are intended to protect them.”
Operators are mandated to only identify, correct and record hazardous conditions under the existing standard. New rules would require all mines to also identify, correct and record violations of mandatory health or safety standards.
MSHA said the proposed changes stemmed from its review of accident investigation reports and federal enforcement data on the nation’s underground coal mines. Over a five-year period, MSHA inspectors found the same types of violations of mandatory health or safety standards every year.
In fact, violations regarding accumulations of combustible materials, ventilation and roof control plans, and maintenance of incombustible content of rock dust are the top 10 cited safety standards year after year and accounted for about 40% of all underground coal violations last year.
The proposal allows for the examiner, who would be looking for these violations as part of the examination, to identify the violations and correct the condition before injury, illness or death can occur.
“Last year, MSHA inspectors issued 82,126 citations and orders at underground coal mines,” Main said.
“These violations should be found and fixed by mine operators, not left for MSHA to find.”
Examinations of Work Areas in Underground Coal Mines for Violations of Mandatory Health or Safety Standards will be published in its entirety with the Federal Register on December 27. A comment period has opened for the proposal, which will close February 25, 2011.