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  • Writer's pictureMichael Peelish, Esq.

MSHA Stakeholder Meeting – “Thanks for a Job Well Done”

MSHA held its quarterly Stakeholder Meeting on December 17, 2020 and went through the familiar agenda.

Notable achievements in 2020 include the reduction of fatal injuries charged to contractors and the improvement in surface haulage accidents with no fatal accidents attributable to not wearing a seatbelt. Areas of concern were noted in that most of the accidents occurred at mines with less than 20 employees, to miners with less than 2 years of experience, and to miners with less than 2 years of experience at the mine where they worked.

MSHA listed its assessment of the top root causes categories of fatal injuries:

  1. Training

  2. Workplace Exams and Corrective Actions

  3. Safe Access & Working Conditions

  4. Visibility and Communication

  5. Blocking against motion

  6. Lock Out Tag Out energy sources

  7. Fall Protection.

This data is instructive to operators and makes for good topics to share with miners during safety meetings.

MSHA also weaved in a discussion about Safety Culture and Education and used a triangle involving miner competency, environment, and behavior to describe how it all works together. They discussed how all three legs must be strong for sustainable safety improvement.

The health and enforcement discussion provided the same type of data regarding quartz exposure monitoring results as it has in the past and nothing is really changing or giving us greater insight into what we already know.

So, the discussion turns to enforcement. In metal/nonmetal, since 2016 MSHA has issued 926 citations and 28 section 104(b) order for failure to timely abate. MSHA is quick to point out that if quartz samples continue to exceed the PEL, then something is not working and that is a serious issue. MSHA is also rightfully concerned about increase in injuries to supervisors who should be setting the right example. When MSHA discusses a company’s safety culture, the supervisor is the person who implements that culture so company’s need to reassess supervisor training and commitment to safety.

MSHA did not set out any 2021 initiatives during the call but stated it would be based on its analysis. They did mention that the surface haulage rule and the respirable quartz proposed rules were going through review but did not make any commitments as to when that would be completed.

One last note. I would like to thank Assistant Secretary Zatezalo for his leadership over the last several years and the way he has led MSHA to address the serious issues facing the mining industry. He would be the first to admit he left some work undone, however, it was not for a lack of trying. Mr. Assistant Secretary, job well done!

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