#74438643@Agnormark|Dreamstime
MSHA Issues Final Rule Reducing Silica Dust Exposure

MSHA Issues Final Rule Reducing Silica Dust Exposure

April 17, 2024
New program requires metal and nonmetal operators to provide health exams at no cost to miners,

On April 16, the DOL announced that its Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a final rule to better protect the nation’s miners from health hazards associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica, also known as silica dust or quartz dust. 

The final rule lowers the permissible exposure limit of respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full-shift exposure, calculated as an 8-hour time-weighted average. If a miner’s exposure exceeds the limit, the final rule requires mine operators to take immediate corrective actions to come into compliance. 

Inhalation of respirable crystalline silica, a carcinogen, can cause serious lung and other diseases, such as silicosis, lung cancer, progressive massive fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and kidney disease. Exposure to mixed coal mine dust containing respirable crystalline silica can lead to the development of black lung disease and progressive massive fibrosis. These diseases are irreversible and can be fatal. They are also preventable. 

The agency says the final rule will result in an estimated total of 1,067 lifetime avoided deaths and 3,746 lifetime avoided cases of silica-related illnesses.

“It is unconscionable that our nation’s miners have worked without adequate protection from silica dust despite it being a known health hazard for decades,” said Acting Secretary Julie Su, in a statement. 

 In addition to reducing exposure limits, the final rule does the following:

  • Requires mine operators to use engineering controls to prevent miners’ overexposures to silica dust and use dust samplings and environmental evaluations to monitor exposures.
  • Compels metal and nonmetal mine operators to establish medical surveillance programs to provide periodic health examinations at no cost to miners. The exams are similar to the medical surveillance programs available to coal miners under existing standards.
  • Replaces an outdated standard for respiratory protection with a new standard reflecting the latest advances in respiratory protection and practices. This update will better protect miners against airborne hazards, including silica dust, diesel particulate matter, asbestos and other contaminants. 

“This rule reducing miners’ exposures to toxic silica dust has been a long time in the making, and the nation’s miners deserve its health protections,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson, in a statement. “Congress gave MSHA the authority to regulate toxic substances to protect miners from health hazards and made clear in the Mine Act that miners’ health and safety must always be our first priority and concern. To further advance this directive, MSHA is committed to working together with everyone in the mining community to implement this rule successfully. No miner should ever have to sacrifice their health or lungs to provide for their family.”Read MSHA’s silica rule. 

Learn more about MSHA and the agency’s rulemaking efforts.

Sponsored Recommendations

ISO 45001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS)

March 28, 2024
ISO 45001 certification – reduce your organizational risk and promote occupational health and safety (OHS) by working with SGS to achieve certification or migrate to the new standard...

Want to Verify your GHG Emissions Inventory?

March 28, 2024
With the increased focus on climate change, measuring your organization’s carbon footprint is an important first action step. Our Green House Gas (GHG) verification services provide...

Download Free ESG White Paper

March 28, 2024
The Rise and Challenges of ESG – Your Journey to Enhanced Sustainability, Brand and Investor Potential

Work Safety Tips: 5 Tactics to Build Employee Engagement for Workplace Safety

March 13, 2024
Employee safety engagement strategies have become increasingly key to fostering a safer workplace environment. But, how exactly do you encourage employee buy-in when it comes ...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!