Best Management Practices and COVID-19 Resources for Mine Operators
March 26, 2020
By: Karl F. Kumli
As local, state, federal, and global agencies scramble to keep up with the constantly developing information regarding exposure to, and protection from, COVID-19, there are steps that mine operators can take to best protect their personnel and operations, as well as the public at large. Some of these steps are mandated by regulation while others are guidance issued by medical authorities or other agencies who understand the coronavirus risk but may not have regulatory authority over industry.
The following information is presented on an equal footing with best practices. The regulatory requirements are usually less stringent and conforming with Best Management Practices (BMPs) will generally ensure compliance with corresponding regulatory requirements; however, each site should review the regulatory changes that have been enacted in the jurisdiction where the site is located and employees operate. Further, BMPs are focused on health issues and may not address all issues affected by changing regulation.
Health Precaution Best Management Practices
- Ensure that all employees are regularly washing hands, prior to beginning work, after touching communal surfaces, and regularly throughout the day. Hand sanitizer is not as effective as hand washing but is a useful alternative if access to soap and water is limited.
- Implement protocols that minimize contact between workers, staggering events and travel, adjusting shift start times, limiting access to work areas to only those workers essential for operations.
- Wherever possible employees should maintain personal distance of at least 6 feet and should avoid direct physical contact such as handshakes.
- Sanitize all equipment after use, this includes the cabs of mobile equipment, keys, badges, or any other equipment that must be shared.
- Increase air flow in buildings and vehicles where possible by opening windows or doors.
- Reduce on-site workforce as much as possible. Limit access to site from any non-employee personnel and be aware of anyone coming on to site.
OSHA/MSHA Best Management Practices
- Health and safety inspectors are continuing to operate at sites across the country.
- Limiting access to the site due to coronavirus does not prevent inspector access to the site.
- If an employee contracts coronavirus at work or due to work required activity, the infection is a reportable illness for both OSHA and MSHA.
- Site representatives are still permitted to accompany an inspector on site and appropriate distancing is encouraged, such as traveling in separate vehicles and holding opening and closing conferences outside.
- Coronavirus response does not change the requirements that sites must conform to under normal regulatory regimes. (This includes PPE, equipment, site maintenance, etc.)
- Asking personnel on site, including employees, visitors, and regulators if they have experienced any of the symptoms of coronavirus prior to allowing access to the site is permissible.
- Site operators may require on-site personnel to have their body temperature taken.
- Information about symptoms and temperature must be treated as confidential medical information.
- If an employee shows symptoms, they should be sent home immediately.
- Any other employees or on-site personnel who came into contact with the infected person must be informed that they have been exposed without revealing any confidential information.
DOT Best Management Practices
- DOT is aware that labs and medical services to respond to required drug and alcohol testing may be limited due to coronavirus response.
- If testing is unavailable, employers need to comply with existing regulation to document why testing was not completed.
- Without a negative test result, current or prospective employees who require drug and alcohol testing cannot be allowed to perform DOT Safety Sensitive functions.
- If testing is not immediately available, mitigating measures should be taken such as: supervisor reasonable suspicion training, follow up testing later in the month.
- The coronavirus outbreak has made some employees hesitant to go to medical facilities for testing, employers should be sensitive to these concerns but also confirm their validity.
- As a reminder, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the circumstances of the employee’s refusal to test and determine whether or not the employee’s actions should be considered a refusal as per 49 CFR § 40.355(i).
As more and more agencies produce both guidance and binding regulation, and as state legislatures and Congress pass legislation in response to this outbreak, the information can seem overwhelming. If you have questions specific to your industry or operation, the lawyers in Jackson Kelly PLLC’s Workplace Safety and Health Group are here to help you make sense of the flood of information.