MSHA targeting silica with enforcement initiative

By |  June 27, 2022

Logo: MSHA

The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) is implementing an enforcement initiative with the intent of protecting miners from respirable crystalline silica.

According to MSHA, the initiative focuses on inspections, sampling, compliance assistance and miners’ rights.

“I personally refuse to stand by and watch miners my age – the friends that I grew up with – develop debilitating and deadly lung diseases that are entirely preventable,” says Christopher Williamson, assistant secretary at MSHA. “That is why I am announcing for the first time today a new silica enforcement initiative.”

As part of the initiative, MSHA will conduct spot inspections for silica at coal and metal/nonmetal mines in accordance with section 103(i) of the Mine Act. MSHA says mines with repeated overexposures to silica may be inspected every 15 days at irregular intervals. 

Additionally, MSHA is setting requirements for exposures over 100 micrograms per cubic meter. An abatement period will be put into effect for metal/nonmetal mines. The agency says it will issue 104(b) withdrawal orders for exposures not abated.

In terms of sampling, MSHA will collect respirable dust samples from occupations known to have high risk of exposure to silica. To MSHA, this means metal/nonmetal miners involved in overburden removal. It also applies to coal miners who are involved in the construction of a shaft or slope.

MSHA also plans to share additional information about silica through stakeholder calls and with MSHA grantees. It will distribute materials related to the initiative and provide compliance assistance through Educational Field & Small Mine Services staff.  

Lastly, the agency intends to reinvigorate its efforts to educate miners about their rights to make hazardous condition complaints and their protections against retaliation and discrimination.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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