January 13, 2022 - Responding to public request, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has reopened, until Feb. 11, the comment period on a proposed rule that would require mine operators employing at least six miners to establish a written safety program for mobile and powered haulage equipment.
First published in the Sept. 9 Federal Register, the proposal is intended to improve safety at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines. According to the agency, a successful written safety program would include actions mine operators could take to identify hazards and risks with the objective of mitigating incidents, injuries and fatalities related to surface mobile equipment. The proposed rule excludes belt conveyors.
Overall, 17 of the 37 miner fatalities reported by MSHA in 2021 involved powered haulage incidents. The preliminary total comes after six straight years in which fewer than 30 miners died on the job.
During a Dec. 14 conference call for industry stakeholders, MSHA noted that five of the 10 occupational fatalities among miners from Oct. 1 to Dec. 13 involved powered haulage.
“I think the fatalities that we went through and the sheer number of them should be a sobering reality for all of us, and the work that needs to get done both at the mine site and at the management table,” acting MSHA administrator Jeannette Galanis said during the call. “So, we look forward to seeing leadership on this from our mine operators, especially around powered haulage.”
On Nov. 1, MSHA launched an enforcement initiative focused on powered haulage that comprises both targeted inspection and special emphasis components. Speaking during the stakeholder conference call, Nancy Rooney, administrator of enforcement for MSHA, said common violations to date have included failure to guard moving machine parts; defects in equipment, machinery or tools; and failure to maintain audible warning devices.
The initial comment period on the proposed rule ended Nov. 8.