Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Lisa Kruska
Phone: (202) 693-4676
Released Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Preliminary Success of In-Mine Tests Offers Opportunity On Respirable Coal Dust Proposed Rules
ARLINGTON, Va. -- U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administrator Dave Lauriski today announced a decision to suspend a rulemaking on respirable coal dust and pursue accelerated research on Personal Dust Monitors, a new protective technology favored by miners' representatives and coal operators alike. Lauriski made the decision after considering stakeholder input on the rulemaking and after the preliminary success of in-mine tests on a prototype of the monitors, also called PDMs, in a West Virginia coal mine. The tests were conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
"Based on the promising success of these initial tests, I've concluded that the best way to protect miners from Black Lung disease is to build consensus on identifying, developing and implementing the most effective technology possible. These Personal Dust Monitors appear to hold the key to achieving renewed progress in the battle against Black Lung," said Assistant Secretary Lauriski.
"In addition to comments submitted in response to the agency's rulemaking proposal, we have also received input from Sen. Arlen Specter and Cong. Shelley Moore Capito, who suggested that we take today's action of postponing the regulation. Cong. Anne Northup has also expressed strong interest in the development of PDM technology, as a means of giving miners added protection from excessive coal dust exposure.
"By keeping the record open, we can assemble the best information available on PDM technology. At the conclusion of the testing period, we expect to move forward in a new and positive direction, with a final rule that reduces miners' risk of black lung disease. Taking this action supports MSHA's goal - to send every miner home healthy and safe at the end of every working day."
Today's decision to extend the proposed rule on respirable coal mine dust includes the following course of action:
- All activity to finalize the proposed rules will stop and the record will remain open;
- MSHA will continue to work with NIOSH on the completion of the in-mine tests of the prototype PDMs over the next several months at mines in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama and Utah;
- Contingent upon a positive assessment by NIOSH and MSHA regarding the in-mine tests, MSHA and NIOSH will commit $150,000 each toward the purchase of production prototype PDMs;
- Working with the manufacturer, industry, miners' representatives and NIOSH, the production prototype PDMs will be used at coal mining operations throughout the U.S. MSHA's goal will be to formulate new requirements for monitoring dust exposures in order to prevent Black Lung disease;
- In the interim, MSHA will continue to enforce the current respirable coal dust rules.