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Workplace Safety and Health News Alert

MSHA Quarterly Call April 2020

April 17, 2020

By: Karl F. Kumli

On April 16, 2020, MSHA held its (rescheduled) quarterly stakeholder call to address regulatory and enforcement updates across the industry. As with most other recent updates from government agencies, the MSHA call was dominated by conversations surrounding the agency’s response to and regulatory actions regarding the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. However, there were substantive updates on policy and enforcement separate from the current crisis, which are summarized below. 

COVID-19 Response:

First, MSHA highlighted a difference between its enforcement of reporting on COVID-19 infections and the enforcement regimen OHSA follows. During the call, MSHA stated that it does not consider COVID-19 to be a reportable workplace illness unless it is known to have been or can be proved to have been contracted at the mine site. Second, in support of operators’ attempts to limit exposure, MSHA is encouraging its inspectors to submit to any medical evaluation conducted by operators for personnel coming onto mine sites. However, this is a voluntary suggestion and does not require inspectors to participate. Third, MSHA has agreed to delay enforcement of most training requirements where a miner’s training has expired since the issuance of the presidential emergency declaration on March 16, 2020. Mine operators will be able to delay training until the end of the emergency declaration. This extension does not apply to new miner training, and new miners must be trained before being beginning work. MSHA also noted that the Educational Field and Small Mine Services employees are not conducting site visits during the emergency declaration but are available by phone or through the MSHA website’s educational portal. 

The educational portal is available here: https://www.msha.gov/training-education

MSHA’s COVID-19 information can be found here: https://www.msha.gov/msha-response-covid-19

MSHA’s Regional Arrangement: 

MSHA has done further restructuring as part of the ongoing “One MSHA” transition. The country is now divided into three regions, and each region oversees a number of district offices. The western region contains three district offices, the central region has four district offices, and the eastern region covers seven district offices. The authority structure has not changed in that the field offices still report to district managers. The Regional Administrators report to Tim Watkins, the Administrator for Coal and Metal/Nonmetal. During the call, MSHA highlighted the authority that is given to Regional Administrators to make enforcement decisions and guidance. At the district level, 

Regulatory updates: 

MSHA outlined its anticipated regulatory schedule for the remainder of the year. While firm dates were not provided, the outline provides operators with the ability to anticipate what MSHA will be focused on in the coming months. The schedule includes: 

Regulatory Changes Schedule:

  • Electronic Detonators – Final rule effective on March 16, 2020 
  • Part 18 Approval – NPRM streamlining for electronic product approval process in Spring 2020 
  • Non-Permissible Surveying Equipment – NPRM in Summer 2020 
  • Refuge Alternatives – (limited reopening) Final rule in Summer 2020 
  • Respirable Quartz – February public meeting and stakeholder workshop rescheduled: partnering w/ NIOSH in the fall
  • Powered Haulage Safety Program – NPRM in Fall 2020

The attorneys in Jackson Kelly’s Workplace Safety and Health group continually monitor changes to regulation and attend agency round tables like this one to make sure that clients have access to the most up-to-date information affecting their business. If you have any questions arising from this update, please reach out to the Workplace Safety and Health group for further guidance. 

 

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