MSHA Moves On New Rules to Prevent Black Lung Disease

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) wants to assume responsibility for all underground compliance dust sampling. Currently, mine operators are responsible for taking the dust samples.

The agency is planning to re-propose standards to require verification of coal mine operator dust control plans and will re-open its rulemaking record on the method used to determine respirable coal mine dust concentrations.

"With these two actions, we are moving on towards more effective prevention of black lung disease," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Our goal is to send every miner home safe and healthy at the end of every working day."

While eliminating the requirement for compliance sampling by underground coal mine operators, the proposal calls for mine operators to collect samples to verify the adequacy of dust control measures specified in their mine ventilation plans. The new proposed rule reflects public comments on an earlier version of the proposal.

At the same time the record is being reopened on a previous proposal to revise the way MSHA determines compliance with respirable coal mine dust standards. MSHA and the Department of Health and Human Services jointly developed a proposed rule stating the average concentration of respirable dust to which an individual working miner is exposed can be accurately measured over a single shift. The proposed rule would update a 32-year-old finding that called for averaging samples taken over multiple shifts.

MSHA is asking for comments and expects to hold public hearings on both issues.

"These rulemaking actions are part of our comprehensive program to improve safety and health performance in the mining industry," Lauriski said. "We are using all the tools provided by law - enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance - to reinforce safety and health as values throughout the Nation's mining industry."

A single-source Web page with information about the "Determination of Concentration of Respirable Coal Mine Dust (Single Sample)" and "Ventilation Plans, Tests and Examinations in Underground Coal Mines" proposed rules can be found at www.msha.gov/planverification/planverification.htm.

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