U.S. Mine Examinations & OSHA Crystalline Silica Rule – Weekly Compliance Digest
Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines
What is it?
On September 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) published a proposed rule that would change the Agency’s final rule on Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines that was published on January 23, 2017.
Who is affected?
Companies primarily from the following industries are affected:
- Metal Ore Mining (NAICS 212200)
- Nonmetallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying (NAICS 212300)
What are the changes?
- A competent person must examine the working place before miners begin work in that place.
The proposed change would require that an examination of the working place be conducted before work begins or as miners begin work in that place. In other words, the proposed change would provide more flexibility for mine operators regarding the exact timing of an examination of a working place: Before work begins or as miners begin work.
The initial rule also includes the following requirement:
- Operators must make a record of the working place examination and include a description of each condition found that may adversely affect the safety or health of miners, including a description of adverse conditions that are corrected immediately.
The proposed change would require that the examination record include only those adverse conditions that are not corrected promptly. In other words, if an adverse condition is corrected immediately, it would not be required to be included in the examination record.
On October 5, 2017, MSHA published a second proposed rule that would extend the effective date of the final rule to June 2, 2018. The initial effective date was January 23, 2017, and was later moved to May 23, 2017, and then to October 2, 2017.
What is next?
The comment periods for both proposed rules are now closed. But MSHA will hold four public hearings in October and November 2017 for the first proposed rule (the one that modifies some requirements). If the proposed modifications are accepted, they would take effect on June 2, 2018, as per the second proposed rule.
Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction
What is it?
On September 23, 2017, the Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Standard became effective. The standard establishes a new 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, an action level (AL) of 25 µg/m3, and a number of other requirements, including:
- Use of engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and work practices to limit worker exposure to the PEL.
- Providing respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure to the PEL.
- Limiting worker access to high exposure areas.
- Training workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
- Providing medical exams to highly exposed workers.
According to OSHA, about 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces.
On September 20, 2017, OSHA announced that the Agency would take into account “good faith efforts” for the first 30 days following the effective date of the rule (i.e. until October 22, 2017).
What will OSHA do during the first 30 days?
During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA will evaluate good faith efforts taken by employers in their attempts to meet the new construction silica standard. OSHA will provide assistance to ensure that covered employers are complying with the requirements. OSHA says that the Agency will pay particular attention to assisting employers in fully and properly implementing controls.
If, following an inspection, it appears that an employer is not making any efforts to comply, OSHA’s inspection will include collection of exposure air monitoring performed in accordance with Agency procedures, and those employers may also be considered for citation, OSHA says. Any proposed citations related to inspections conducted during the 30-day period will require National Office review.
Finally, to ensure effective implementation of the new standard, OSHA says that the Agency has developed interim inspection and citation guidance to be released before the end of the 30-day period.
What is next?
It’s worth noting that the Respirable Crystalline Silica rule affects many industries, not just construction, with the following different effective dates:
- Construction: September 23, 2017 (Good faith efforts will be taken into account for the first 30 days)
- General Industry and Maritime: June 23, 2018
- Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking): June 23, 2018 for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.
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