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MSHA News Release No. 2000-0811
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452 

 Released Friday, August 11, 2000

New Rules Designed to End Black Lung
FEDERAL HEARING ON NEW COAL MINE DUST CONTROL RULE SET FOR MONDAY IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH



Who: The U.S. Department of Labor, MSHA
What: A hearing on newly proposed coal mine dust control rules.
When: Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 16-17, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Where: The Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah
Why: To get the input of area coal miners and mine operators.


   Western coal miners and mine operators, as well as other interested persons, are invited to express their opinion concerning newly proposed coal dust monitoring rules during a hearing scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 16-17, 2000, at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is proposing to change the system for sampling, detecting and controlling dust in all U.S. coal mines. Each hearing begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday’s hearing will end at noon.

    "We are bringing this hearing to Salt Lake to make it convenient for area coal miners to attend," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We want to have the full participation of miners and mine operators in this rulemaking process. All comments received during the hearings will be given thorough consideration when we develop the final rule."

    In the first comprehensive change in 30 years, MSHA is proposing to take over all sampling in underground coal mines to check for compliance with dust limits set to prevent lung disease. Mine operators have performed most of this sampling for the past 30 years.

    The agency also proposes that MSHA verify the effectiveness of the mine operator's dust control measures specified in its mine ventilation plan under more typical production levels before these plans are approved. Currently each underground coal mine operator must have an MSHA-approved ventilation plan, but its effectiveness in controlling respirable dust is not verified prior to approval. Samples must reflect the quality of the air that the miners are breathing.

    Miners' representatives would have the right to observe the sampling for plan verification as well as compliance sampling by MSHA inspectors.

    The proposed rule would also allow MSHA inspectors to issue citations for non-compliance when a full-shift sample demonstrates, at a high level of confidence, that the applicable dust control standard has been exceeded on an individual shift. Currently, MSHA averages the dust concentration obtained from several full-shift samples (8 hours or less in duration) to determine noncompliance, a procedure that can mask significant single-shift over-exposures by diluting a measurement of high dust exposure with one of lower dust concentration.

    "Together the changes we are proposing would act as the cornerstone of a restructured system to prevent black lung and silicosis," said McAteer. "When we are able to set these changes in place, coal miners can have greater confidence in the system to monitor -- and most importantly, control -- dust that can harm their health."

    The deadline for written comments on the proposed rule is Aug. 24, 2000. For those who cannot attend the hearing, comments may be mailed to MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances, 4015 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va., 22203. Interested parties may also e-mail comments to "zzMSHA-Comments@dol.gov" or fax comments to 703-235-5551. Commenters should identify which part of the proposed rule their comments address.

    In addition to Salt Lake City, hearings were held last week in Morgantown, W.Va. and in Prestonsburg, Ky. All interested parties are encouraged to attend the hearings.

    MSHA hopes to issue the rules in final form by the end of the year.