MSHA updates guidance on COVID-19

By |  March 10, 2021

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The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) issued stronger worker safety guidance on Wednesday in an effort, the agency says, to help mine operators and mine workers implement coronavirus protection programs and better identify risks that could lead to exposure.

MSHA’s “Protecting Miners: MSHA Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19” provides updated guidance and recommendations, outlining existing safety and health standards.

“The pandemic has cost too many Americans their lives or their well-being,” says M. Patricia Smith, senior counselor to the secretary of labor. “Together, employers and workers have vital roles in making their workplaces as safe as possible to counter this terrible disease. Mine operations face unique challenges, and the Mine Safety & Health Administration’s updated guidance includes recommendations to help mining communities fight the virus and eventually end its devastating health and economic consequences.”

According to MSHA, implementing a coronavirus protection program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The guidance issued Wednesday recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:

• Conducting a hazard assessment
• Identifying control measures to limit the spread of the virus
• Adopting policies for miners who are absent that does not punish them as a way to encourage potentially infected miners to remain home
• Ensuring communication of coronavirus policies and procedures to English and non-English speaking workers
• Implementing protections from retaliation for miners who raise coronavirus-related concerns

“The mining industry depends on the safety of mine operations and the safety and well-being of its mine workers,” says Jeannette Galanis, principal deputy assistant secretary at MSHA. “This updated guidance provides U.S. mine operators with important recommendations for protecting miners from coronavirus and reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.”

The MSHA guidance details key measures for limiting COVID-19’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected miners are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols, and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. Guidance is also provided on the use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning.

“MSHA’s guidance champions safety and health, promotes engagement and education, and provides effective plans for individual sites – regardless of mine size,” says Michele Stanley, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association. “We are grateful to MSHA for their thorough, flexible and clear direction that will enhance safety and health at aggregates operations and across the mining industry.”

MSHA says it will update guidance as developments in science, best practices and standards warrant.


Featured photo: P&Q Staff

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

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

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