MSHA Proposes Rule to Reduce Miners' Exposure to Asbestos

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued a proposed rule that would reduce by 20 times miners' permissible exposure limit (PEL) to asbestos.

The rule would lower the current exposure limit for 8-hour work shifts from two fibers per cubic centimeter to 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter.

"This lowered PEL would help improve the health of American miners," said David G. Dye, deputy assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We are fully committed to fulfilling our mission of protecting the health and safety of America's miners."

The proposed rule would affect miners at all metal and nonmetal mines, surface coal mines and surface areas of underground coal mines in the United States.

Asbestos is the generic term for a group of minerals that occur naturally as long, thin fibers. Some adverse health effects associated with exposure to asbestos are lung diseases, such as cancer; pulmonary fibrosis; asbestosis; and mesothelioma.

Under the proposal, the regulations would:

  • Lower the short-term excursion limit from 10 fibers per cubic centimeter sampled over 15 minutes to one fiber per cubic centimeter sampled over 30 minutes;
  • Continue to cover the same asbestos minerals as are addressed in MSHA's existing standards these minerals are called the "Federal Six" and are the same as those regulated by OSHA; and
  • Use the same language for metal, nonmetal and coal mine asbestos standards.

Written comments on this proposed rulemaking should be submitted within 60 days (from July 29) to the MSHA Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances, 1100 Wilson Blvd., Room 2350, Arlington, Va., 22209-3939; or faxed to (202) 693-9441. Comments may be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov, or by e-mail to zzMSHA-comments@dol.gov, inserting RIN: 1219-AB24 in the subject line.

Public hearings about the proposed rule are scheduled for Oct. 18 at the Denver Federal Center in Denver and Oct. 20 at the Mine Safety and Health Administration building in Arlington, Va. MSHA's Web site at http://www.msha.gov has a hearing schedule and a link to the proposed rule, which is in the July 29 Federal Register.

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