Mining is a very dangerous job. A report by ABC News back in 2010 detailed mining as one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, taking roughly 60 lives per year. Some of the most common mining accidents include methane explosions and blasting related accidents. Workers in these industries heavily rely on MSHA standards to protect them from these dangers.
What is MSHA?
The Mine and Safety Health Administration, commonly referred to as MSHA, is responsible for ensuring that American miners are working under safe conditions across the country.
The agency performs its duty by enforcing regulations that aim to save lives and prevent injuries, while also leading the way to fewer incidents and significant cost reductions. The MSHA enforces regulations as per the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which is the basis of many safety protocols and standards you’ll see in mining operations today.
MSHA Regulations Overview
MSHA’s main concern is the safety and wellbeing of miners across the United States. They implement various safety standards and regulations to ensure that businesses that operate within the mines are following the rules and maintaining a compliant working environment.
According the Department of Labor’s official website, “MSHA is responsible for enforcing the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) as amended by the MINER Act of 2006. The Mine Act gives the Secretary of Labor authority to develop, promulgate, and revise health or safety standards for the protection of life and prevention of injuries in the nation’s mines.”
In simple terms, this means that MSHA is responsible for enforcing various acts that prioritize the health and safety of American miners. The acts consist of various MSHA regulations that all miners must follow and abide by to avoid accidents, injuries, or penalties.
Mining accidents can be severe and costly for both the employees and employers. However, for those who are working for a mine that maintains MSHA regulations, there’s a good chance that incidents, regardless of its scale, can be prevented. At the very least, mines that are compliant with MSHA regulations are well-versed in mine safety best practices, and know how to handle situations if accidents do occur.
Mine operators are required to report all accidents onsite within 15 minutes. This includes:
- The death of a worker or any individual in the mine.
- An individual entrapped for more than half an hour.
- Injuries to a person that may prove fatal.
- The mine filling up with liquid or gas.
- An unplanned fire that cannot be extinguished in 30 minutes.
- An unplanned explosion of gas or gas ignition.
- An unplanned roof collapse in operational areas of the mine where roof bolts have been used. This also includes roof collapse in active work areas that can block ventilation or block passages.
- Damage to hoisting equipment which can endanger personnel or which prevents equipment usage for more than 30 minutes.
- Disruption of mining activities for an hour due to coal or rock outbursts leading to withdrawal of miners.
- Unstable conditions which require emergency response to prevent evacuation.
MSHA Inspections according to the Mine Act
According to the Mine Act, each surface mine has to be inspected by MSHA at least twice a year and underground mines have to be examined at least 4 times annually. Meanwhile, temporary or seasonal mines may be inspected randomly at any time.
Nonetheless, all mine inspections, whether random or scheduled, will be subjected to MSHA regulations. Additionally, mine supervisors do not have to be given advanced notice of an inspection and they cannot prevent inspectors from entering the mines even if the inspectors don’t have a warrant.
Besides frequent MSHA inspections, certain mines have to be inspected routinely to ensure workers have a safe and healthy work environment. This includes extra inspections of mines that are filled with methane or other explosive gases. Failure to do so can result in hazardous work conditions that can prove fatal. Fatal accidents and discrimination complaints are also prone to investigation under the Mine Act.
Violations and Penalties
Even if MSHA regulations are maintained in a mining operation, they have to be enforced to be effective. To ensure compliance, MSHA issues citations for any violations discovered during inspections of mine operations. Mine personnel who are in charge of operations are informed about the penalty that is appropriate for the violation within a reasonable amount of time.
According to the Mine Act, a representative miner is allowed to accompany a MSHA inspection during a mine inspection. This ensures a fair and inclusive assessment of work conditions and allows the worker the insight needed for pre and post-assessment meetings. During this time, the representative is paid as per their designation during the time of their participation.
All violations cited are made known to mining operators at the end of each inspection. However, they have the right to investigate the circumstances surrounding those violations and discuss them during subsequent meetings. In case the discussions do not yield resolutions, the citation and the proposed penalty can be contested before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.
MSHA is responsible for creating and improving safety and health standards for miners that can prevent injuries and protect them in hazardous work conditions. Plus, even though it takes negligent mine operators to task for violations, operators can request modifications of safety standards in mines. However, MSHA only allows modifications if the alternatives offer the same standard of protection to workers. If proposed safety plans reduce worker safety, they are rejected in favor of original standards.
To learn more about these MSHA regulations, the most efficient way to go is arranging an online MSHA training program. It’s a good way to integrate the industry’s best practices, without having to take too much time and resources. Furthermore, the program is on-demand and can be a great source of information whether you are upgrading your business structure or expanding the workforce.