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MSHA News Release No. 97-0505
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Katharine Snyder
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Monday, May 5, 1997

MSHA Reempasizes Inspection Focus on Lung Hazards in Coal Mines

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is strengthening existing enforcement procedures to give coal miners better protection against lung diseases caused by respirable dust, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Davitt McAteer announced. The procedures reflect several recommendations offered last November by the Secretary of Labor's Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Pneumoconiosis Among Coal Mine Workers.

"The advisory committee presented MSHA with more than 100 recommendations to improve the overall program of respirable coal mine dust control," McAteer said. "These enforcement procedures focus on several areas where the committee recommended improvements."

Beginning June 15, MSHA inspectors will follow new instructions during inspections to:

The instructions have a delayed effective date (June 15) to allow time to train inspectors and alert the mining community of the enforcement procedures. Other administrative recommendations, as well as recommendations that may require regulatory or legislative changes, are under study. "We'll continue to move forward on the advisory committee's recommendations throughout the year," McAteer said.

The new instructions to MSHA inspectors are set forth in Procedure Instruction Letters I97-V-5 through I97-V-8. To help apprise the mining community of the procedures, copies of the procedure instruction letters are being mailed to all coal mine operators. The procedure instruction letters may also be found on MSHA's Home Page on the World Wide Web at http:// www.msha.gov/, where they can be accessed via links from Program Information Bulletin P97-9. On MSHA's home page, all recent agency program information bulletins may be found under "Compliance Assistance Information," which is located under "Statutory and Regulatory Information."

The Secretary of Labor's Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Pneumoconiosis Among Coal Miners was a joint effort on the part of industry, labor, academia and government to address the continued problem of lung disease among the nation's coal miners. While significant progress has been made since coal mine dust controls were first required under the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, the advisory committee's recommendations, issued last November, aimed towards further reductions in these diseases.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in 1990 almost 2,000 miners died with black lung disease. In addition, more than 250 other workers, including miners, die every year with the lung disease silicosis. Overexposure to respirable coal mine dust can lead to black lung, while excessive exposure to dust containing silica (quartz) can cause silicosis.