Workplace exams rule to be implemented despite opposition

By |  January 20, 2017

msha-logoThe Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) issued a final rule for workplace examinations that will go into effect this spring despite opposition from the mining industry.

According to MSHA, the final rule improves miner safety and health in three key areas, requiring that exams be conducted before miners are exposed to adverse conditions; that affected miners be notified when a hazardous condition is found; and that a record of the examination include the locations examined, the adverse conditions found and the date of the corrective action.

Under the existing standards, an exam could be conducted at any time during the shift – even at the very end of the shift – exposing miners to hazardous conditions, according to MSHA. Currently, there are no provisions for miners to be notified of the hazards found during the examination, or for noting the hazards found in the examination record, according to the agency.

“MSHA has taken a common sense approach with this rule,” says Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Effective examinations will improve working conditions and practices in the nation’s mines, ultimately preventing accidents and injuries.”

The workplace exams rule has, however, received strong opposition for months from the mining industry, including from the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), which plans to seek the help of the Trump administration to rescind or block the implementation of the rule. NSSGA argues that the rule does little to improve workplace safety.

NSSGA conservatively estimates that just the provisions mandating documentation of hazards would impose costs of at least $25 million on small operators. Another reason the association opposes the rule is that it calls for exams to be conducted before work begins in a work area – not before a shift begins. Also, the rule mandates the prompt notification of affected miners of hazards not immediately corrected. Documentation of adverse conditions found on an exam, the dates that exams were conducted, abatements made and the name of the examiner are also required.

The new workplace exams rule will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 23 and go into effect on May 23. MSHA plans to develop outreach and compliance assistance materials related to the final rule and provide these materials to stakeholders at seminars and on its website. Also, the agency will conduct enforcement training for its inspectors and managers.

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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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