Weekly Compliance Digest – Respirable Coal Dust Rule, Phase 2

February 19, 2016 By
In this edition of the Weekly Compliance Digest, we take a look at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) Respirable Dust Rule. The rule’s Phase 2 requirements came into effect recently.

Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, Including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors

What is it?

On May 1, 2014, MSHA’s respirable dust rule was published, adding protections for coal miners and closing loopholes that masked their exposure to unhealthy coal mine dust. Chronic exposure to respirable coal mine dust causes lung diseases that can lead to permanent disability and death. The final rule‘s objective is to improve health protections for coal miners by reducing their occupational exposure to respirable coal mine dust and by lowering the risk that they will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity over their working lives.

Provisions of the final rule have been going in effect in three phases and effective dates. Phase 1 had an effective date of August 1, 2014 and included the following provisions:

  • Compliance based on a single, full-shift sample obtained by MSHA. A citation is issued when a single MSHA sample shows excessive levels of dust, rather than an average of samples.
  • Requirement for immediate corrective action when a single, full-shift sample obtained by an operator finds an excessive level of dust.
  • Change in the method of citing over-exposures and averaging samples obtained by operators.
  • Redefinition of the term “normal production shift”.
  • Requirement for full-shift sampling.
  • Significant increase in the number of positions to be sampled at surface mines.
  • Training and certification strengthened for persons who conduct sampling.
  • Excessive Concentration Value (ECV) concept created to account for possible margins of error in sampling.
  • Record-keeping and accountability improvements.
  • Expansion of medical surveillance requirements.
  • Transfer rights for miners with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (Part 90 miners) extended to surface miners.
  • Increased sampling of miners with coal workers pneumoconiosis (Part 90 miners).

Who is affected?

The rule affects the coal mining industry.

What are the requirements?

The following Phase 2 requirements became effective as of February 1, 2016:

  • The continuous personal dust monitor (CPDM) must be used to monitor underground coal mine occupations exposed to the highest respirable dust concentrations, as well as all miners with evidence of black lung (Part 90 miners). The CPDM is a belt-wearable, computerized device that measures and displays the real-time, accumulated and full-shift exposure to respirable coal mine dust. Use of the CPDM is optional for surface coal mines, non-production areas of underground coal mines, and for underground anthracite mines using certain mining methods.
  • Sampling frequency in underground mines is increased for occupations most exposed to respirable dust, and a greater number of such occupations will be sampled. For those high exposure occupations, fifteen valid samples must be obtained every quarter, instead of the five samples previously collected every two months.
  • Miners will receive information on respirable dust levels more quickly – Operators must post results of CPDM sampling for all but Part 90 miners on the mine bulletin board within 12 hours of the sampled shift. Part 90 miners must be given a copy of the sample data within the first hour of the miner’s next work shift.

What is next?

Phase 3 will become effective on August 1, 2016. As of that date, concentration limits for respirable coal mine dust will be reduced. The overall respirable dust standard in coal mines will be reduced from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air. The standard for Part 90 miners and for air used to ventilate places where miners work will be reduced from 1.0 to 0.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air.

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Categories: EHS

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