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Final rule readied on mine safety inspections

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Mine safety

The Mine Safety and Health Administration plans to issue final rules for examination of working places in metal and nonmetal mines, the agency announced Tuesday.

The new rule, originally proposed in June 2016, is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 23 and take effect May 23. 

The rule is intended to improve miner safety and health by requiring examinations take place before miners are exposed to adverse conditions and notification of miners when a hazardous condition is found. The rule also requires a record of the examination to include locations that were examined, which adverse conditions were found and the date of the corrective action.

Existing rules only require examinations to occur at some point during a shift, which creates a potential for miners to encounter hazardous conditions before the examination occurs, according to MSHA. In addition, there are no provisions under current rules that require miners to be notified of hazards found during an examination or for hazards to be reported. 

“MSHA has taken a common-sense approach with this rule,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said in a press release Tuesday. “Effective examinations will improve working conditions and practices in the nation’s mines, ultimately preventing accidents and injuries.” 

Nearly 250,000 miners work at more than 11,800 metal and nonmetal mining operations in the United States, according to MSHA. Accidents in these mines accounted for 122 miner deaths between January 2010 and mid-December 2015. 

“Unwarrantable failure violations involve serious conditions of which the mine operator was aware or should have been aware,” Mr. Main said. “Had the individual conducting the examination recorded these adverse conditions, mine operators would have taken prompt corrective action, which would have protected miners from serious injury.” 

Some mining operations already have these measures in place, Mr. Main said.

The agency previously estimated the proposed cost of the rule at between $70.9 million and $86.2 million over a 10-year period.