The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) helps to reduce deaths, injuries, and illnesses in the nation's mines with a variety of activities and programs. The Agency develops and enforces safety and health rules for all U.S. mines, and provides technical, educational and other types of assistance to mine operators. MSHA works cooperatively with industry, labor, and other Federal and state agencies to improve safety and health conditions for all miners in the United States. MSHA's responsibilities are spelled out in the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), as amended by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006.
The Mine Act applies to all mining and mineral processing operations in the United States, regardless of size, number of employees, or method of extraction. Thus, MSHA covers two-person sand and gravel pits as well as large underground coal mines and processing plants.
MSHA was created in 1978, when the Mine Act transferred the Federal mine safety program from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Labor.
MSHA is headed by an Assistant Secretary of Labor who administers a broad regulatory program to reduce injuries and illnesses in mining. Mine safety and health laws, rules and regulations are enforced by MSHA's two mining sector program areas:
Coal Mine Safety and Health (CMS&H) conducts mine inspections, investigations, and training programs through 12 district offices and a system of field offices in the nation's coal mining regions.
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health conducts mine inspections, investigations, and training programs through six district offices and a system of field offices for all non-coal mines throughout the United States.
Other offices that have important roles in improving mine safety and health and carrying out the mission of MSHA include:
The Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances coordinates the development and issuance of safety and health rules and revision of existing rules, continually involving the public in the process. The office also coordinates MSHA's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program
The Office of Assessments, Accountability, Special Enforcement and Investigations Office of Assessments, Accountability, Special Enforcement and Investigations (OAASEI) assesses and collects civil penalties for violations of the Mine Act and of mine safety and health standards; administers MSHA' s Special Investigations Program; manages MSHA' s enhanced enforcement strategies including the Pattern of Violations (POV) Program; and administers MSHA' s accountability program.
The Directorate of Technical Support provides engineering and technical aid, approves equipment and materials for safe mining use, and assists in mine emergencies and accident investigations. Technical Support operates major facilities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Directorate of Educational Policy and Development administers the Agency's training programs. From the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, training is conducted on a variety of mine health and safety topics for safety and health specialists from government, industry and labor. Through the Educational Field Services Division, training-related assistance is provided to mine operators throughout the country.
The Directorate of Program Evaluation and Information Resources (PEIR) conducts internal reviews and follow-ups and evaluates the effectiveness of agency programs; collects, analyzes and publish data obtained from mine operators on work-related injuries and illnesses in mining; supports and provides training for all MSHA automated information systems, data communications networks and computer equipment.
The Directorate of Administration and Management oversees the administrative operations of MSHA, including budget, payroll, hiring, procurement and other functions.
The Changing Mandate
The nation's first federal mine safety law was enacted in the late 1800s; over the 20th century, many increasingly stronger pieces of legislation followed. The 1977 law that MSHA administers today combined and extended previous mining laws.
Among other changes, the Mine Act extended to metal and nonmetal miners legal protections similar to those coal miners already had, and it further unified the federal mine safety and health program and generally strengthened miner protection in all types of mining.
The Mine Act requires MSHA to make at least four complete inspections of all underground operations yearly and at least two inspections a year at surface mines. Other provisions call for issuing detailed regulations on basic safety and health training for miners, upgrading and strengthening many existing mine safety and health laws, changes in the civil penalty system applying to rules violators, and greater participation of miners or their representatives in mine safety and health activities.
The MINER Act, the most significant mine safety legislation in 30 years, amended the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and contained a number of provisions to improve safety in America's mines. The law further improved mine safety nationwide, by increasing training, upgrading mining standards, improving mine emergency response and requiring enhanced technology underground for post-disaster communications.
For more information on MSHA, contact:
Program Education and Outreach Services, MSHA Headquarters, Arlington, VA, (202) 693-9400; Your local MSHA office. (Check your local phone book, under "U.S. Government."); or The MSHA internet homepage at http://www.msha.gov.