The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) works to prevent mining injuries, illnesses and fatalities, and promote safe and healthful workplaces for all U.S. miners. The agency name and its mission statement make clear that protecting both miners’ safety and health must be a priority.
At MSHA, we take seriously our mandate to conduct inspections; investigate hazard complaints; offer education, training, and compliance assistance; and work together with labor and mine operators to correct safety hazards and prevent accidents. When a near miss or accident occurs, those are visible events that easily capture one’s attention and quickly lead to efforts to focus on safety. However, health hazards that can make miners sick are harder to identify, analyze and address. Moreover, some of the worst occupational illnesses – such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung disease), silicosis and cancer – develop over time based on miners’ exposure levels and other environmental factors.
Through the Miner Health Matters campaign, MSHA will conduct enforcement and outreach efforts to ensure miners working in potentially dangerous mining environments take proper precautions to limit exposures to silica and other dangerous toxins. And MSHA personnel will continue to directly communicate with miners about their rights and the importance of protecting their health whenever we have the opportunity.
- Under 30 Code of Federal Regulations Part 90, coal miners who have already developed pneumoconiosis can exercise rights that allow them to continue working in healthier parts of the mine. MSHA will work to reduce barriers that may prevent coal miners from choosing to exercise their Part 90 rights.
- MSHA published a proposed rule to better protect all miners from exposure to respirable crystalline silica and to update the existing respiratory protection standards.
- In June 2022, we announced a Silica Enforcement Initiative to better protect miners from health hazards related to repeated overexposures of silica. The initiative includes inspections, sampling, compliance assistance and direct conversations with miners about their rights to report health hazards.
- Protecting miners from the risks associated with COVID-19 is especially difficult in underground mines and places where miners were traveling and working closely and without adequate ventilation. MSHA has developed coronavirus guidance and hosted vaccine clinics for miners and their families. These clinics have also provided hundreds of masks and COVID tests in mining communities.
- The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, signed into law by President Biden on Aug. 16, helped to secure federal black lung benefits for miners with black lung disease and their families. Generations of coal miners who sacrificed so much to power our country can rest assured that their benefits are not in jeopardy. If a miner or other beneficiary has questions about benefits through the federal Black Lung program, beneficiaries can call the Department of Labor at 800-347-2502 or email DCMWCfirstname.lastname@example.org.