More time to comment on exam proposed rule

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration is extending a comment period for its proposed changes to existing requirements for underground coal mine examinations to allow additional time for public input.
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Staff Reporter

The official notice will appear in the Federal Register March 1 and will formally extend the open comment time from February 25 to March 28.

The initial notice of the proposed rule, Examinations of Work Areas in Underground Coal Mines for Violations of Mandatory Health or Safety Standards, was published December 27.

If it becomes a regulation in its original form, the adjustments would have an impact on pre-shift, supplemental, on-shift and weekly examinations.

Operators would be required 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.

Under the existing standard, operators are mandated to only identify, correct and record hazardous conditions. 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, federal inspectors found the same types of violation 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.

MSHA assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said late last year that the agency’s inspectors had issued 82,126 citations and orders at underground coal mines in 2010.

“These violations should be found and fixed by mine operators, not left for MSHA to find,” he said.