RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19/CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK: WHAT MINE OPERATORS NEED TO KNOW
March 17, 2020
By: Karl F. Kumli
For clients and friends of Jackson Kelly PLLC
Volume 16, Number 3
©2020 Jackson Kelly PLLC
The novel coronavirus, frequently referred to as “COVID-19,” has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (“WHO”). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has issued and continues to update its guidance on means and methods that the public should be employing to limit their exposure and the chances of transmitting the disease to others. Whether at work, at home, or trying to stay healthy in the world, this guidance is useful for all people. Current CDC guidance for workplaces can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html.
What does this mean for mine operators? Answering that question requires looking at updated policy guidance, questions surrounding personal protective equipment, and managing possible work stoppages.
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) has issued guidance on an employer’s responsibility for reporting cases of COVID-19 at work. The DOL has issued a department-wide statement incorporating OSHA’s new standard regarding reporting.
OSHA has declared that COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job. If an employee becomes infected while traveling for work or at work, the employer would be required to prepare and file appropriate reports with OSHA. As a result, without specific guidance from MSHA regarding the reporting requirements arising from a COVID-19 infection, best practices currently are for mine operators to treat at-work infections of COVID-19 as a reportable illness under 30 C.F.R. Part 50 and submit a 7000-1 form within 10 days.
Importantly, some things have not changed: MSHA has not put out guidance that states or implies that mine operators would be exempt from compliance with training deadlines or other requirements that might usually involve organizing a large group in a small space. The DOL has encouraged remote work and the use of online tools where practicable. Operators with questions as to the requirement or training alternatives are encouraged to contact their MSHA District office.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT:
Facemasks, specifically N95 respirators, must be fit-tested to each employee prior to that employee’s use of the mask. Operators may already have fit-testing in place for some employees, but it is required for any employee who needs or chooses to wear a mask on site.
If the outbreak causes a site to cease operations, any mine closure, even if temporary, must be reported to the District Office under 30 C.F.R. § 56/57.1000. MSHA has also advised that the Field Office Supervisor should be copied on any notification of a shutdown. In the unlikely event that a site is shut down for an entire quarter, quarterly reports should still be made. In this instance, even though the regulation states that a report is not required in this situation, a report showing zero hours is recommended rather than not submitting a report.
This is a dynamic situation and more guidance from agencies is expected. As a result, the Workplace Safety and Health team at Jackson Kelly PLLC will continue to issue updates as information changes.
Jackson Kelly PLLC’s Workplace Safety and Health team is available to assist clients in developing customized strategies for responding to, and complying with, changes in regulation that impact operations and employee safety.
WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH PRACTICE GROUP
Karen L. Johnston
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