The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is slated to publish an interim final rule designed to reduce injuries and illnesses related to chemicals in the mining industry.
The Hazard Communication (HazCom) standard, scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Oct. 3, will require mine operators to assess the hazards of chemicals they produce or use, train miners and provide them with information on these hazards.
The standard will become effective on Oct. 3, 2001.
"Miners have a right to know about the chemical hazards where they work, and operators have a responsibility to know about the chemical hazards at their mines. Workers in all other industries are afforded this basic right," said Davitt McAteer, MSHA administrator. "Between 1990 and 1999, the mining industry reported more than 3,000 chemical burns and poisonings to MSHA. This indicates that miners and mine operators may not be as aware of the hazards as they should be."
Mining can expose workers to a variety of hazardous chemicals. For example, explosives contain organic nitrates that produce nitrogen oxides and ammonia when detonated. Roof bolting systems used underground contain plastic resins and reactants. Solvents used in equipment maintenance can be both toxic and flammable. Mill regents can contain hydrogen sulfide, cyanide or other dangerous chemicals.
Major provisions of the HazCom rule will include:
- Hazard determination: Mine operators must identify all chemicals used at their mines and determine if they pose a physical or health hazard.
- Labeling: Containers of hazardous chemicals must be marked, tagged, labeled or otherwise identified as such, and must include the appropriate hazard warnings. Products taken off mine property need not be labeled, but information must be provided to a customer upon request.
- HazCom program: Operators must maintain a written plan which includes a list of the hazardous chemicals at the mine, how operators will inform miners about unlabeled chemicals and the hazards of jobs that are not routine, provisions for labeling containers, a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical, miner training and the method for informing other on-site operators.
Training required by the HazCom standard will inform miners how to read and understand labels and MSDSs. Miners will learn about the potential risks from exposure to chemicals in their work areas and the means of prevention and protection. Miners must receive training before being assigned to a work area, when a new hazardous chemical is introduced into a work area, and when new information becomes available about a chemical''s particular hazards.
MSHA said it developed HazCom''s training components to be fully compatible with existing training standards.
The HazCom requirements mirror those developed by OSHA in most areas.
For instance, MSHA exempts raw materials from labeling. The agency allows more than one miner to use substances out of unlabeled portable containers as long as they are aware of the identity of the substance. Finally, MSHA requires the retention of MSDSs only while the chemical in question is on mine property.
The HazCom rule appears on MSHA''s Web site at www.msha.gov under "Statutory and Regulatory Information."
by Virginia Sutcliffe