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Silica Enforcement Initiative

MSHA is implementing a Silica Enforcement Initiative to protect Coal and Metal and Nonmetal (MNM) miners’ health by limiting their exposures to respirable crystalline silica.  This initiative has four components: inspections, sampling, compliance assistance, and miners’ rights.  

  1. Inspections 

    Coal and MNM mines 

          MSHA will conduct spot inspections for silica at coal and MNM mines in accordance with section 103(i) of the Mine Act. 

  • At mines with repeated overexposures to silica, mines may be inspected every 15-days at irregular intervals. 

  • MSHA will require for overexposures over 100 micrograms per cubic meter (existing PEL):  

    • For MNM mines, abatement within a period of time. 

      • For overexposures not abated, MSHA will issue a 104(b) withdrawal order.   

    • For coal mines, MSHA will encourage mine operators to change the dust control and mine ventilation plans and review plans/exposures after changes are made. 

        Coal mines 

          Review of Ventilation and Roof Control Plans 

  • MSHA District Managers will review ventilation and roof control plans for extended cuts (greater than 20 feet).  District Managers may require mine operators to specify in these plans: 

    • The number of miners working downwind of the continuous mining machine. 

    • The number of extended cuts miners will work downwind. 
       

  • MSHA will take additional dust samples for miners who are overexposed. (See sampling) 

  • MSHA District Managers will review approved plans to determine if the plans are appropriate when MSHA’s samples indicate silica overexposures. 

  1.  Sampling 

    Coal and MNM mines  

          MSHA will collect respirable dust samples from occupations known to have a high-risk of exposures to silica. This will include: 

  • MNM miners involved in overburden removal. 

  • Coal miners involved in the construction of a shaft or slope. 

        Coal mines 

          Extended Cuts (Greater than 20 feet) 

          For mines with approved extended cut mining, MSHA may collect additional dust   samples for: 

  • Miners working downwind of a continuous mining machine. 

  • The number of extended cuts miners will work downwind. 

          Developing Cross Cuts 

          Developing a crosscut is a period in the mining process when miners may be potentially at a significant risk of high exposures.   

  • MSHA samples these miners when possible. 

  1.  Compliance Assistance 

  • MSHA will work with stakeholders including mine operators, industry, and labor.  

  • MSHA will share additional information through stakeholder calls and to MSHA grantees. 

  • All information will be posted on the Agency’s website. 

  • MSHA will distribute materials related to this initiative and provide compliance assistance through Educational Field and Small Mine Services staff.  

  1.  Miners’ Voice 

  • MSHA will reinvigorate efforts to educate miners about their rights to make hazardous condition complaints and their protections against retaliation and discrimination. 

  • MSHA will ensure that miners are aware of their right to: 

    • Accompany an MSHA inspector. 
       
    • Obtain an immediate MSHA inspection if they believe safety or health hazards exists. 
       
    • Identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of retaliation and discrimination. 
       
    • Additional information will be posted on the MSHA’s website. 
       
    • Compliance assistance materials will be provided through the Educational Field and Small Mine Services staff.  

MSHA Assistant Secretary Chris Williamson Speech to United Mine Workers of America 56th Consecutive Constitutional Convention | Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)