Labor Department proposes new rules for mine safety

Labor Department proposes new rules for mine safety
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The Labor Department proposed new rules Tuesday in an effort to improve workplace safety for miners.

Under the proposed rules, mining companies will be forced to examine the workplace before miners begin work in a location and notify miners of any conditions that may adversely affect their safety or health.

The rules also require a competent person before the end of each shift to sign and date an examination record that includes a description of locations examined, conditions found and corrective actions taken. Companies must then make those records available for inspection by MSHA and miner representatives and provide a copy of the records upon request.

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The industry had 122 fatalities from January 2010 to mid-December 2015. Of the deaths reported, the agency said more than 60 percent were linked to violations of the “Rules to Live By” standards to prevent fatalities. 

“We believe that many of these fatalities could have been prevented with better working place examinations,” Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for the agency’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), said in a statement.

“MSHA has proactively provided notices to the mining industry on the need to improve mine site examinations, but now the time has come to require better, more effective examinations.” 

Under current MSHA standards, a workplace examination can be conducted at any time during a shift. But the rules in place now do not specify what information should be included or require mine operators to promptly notify miners when adverse conditions are found.  

“The mining environment changes continuously, and that environment must be constantly monitored,” Main said. “Maintaining a record of adverse conditions found and corrective actions taken would help mine operators, miners and their representatives become more aware of dangerous and unhealthy conditions. These common-sense measures would also encourage operators to be more proactive in correcting these hazards before an accident, injury or fatality occurs.”