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MSHA outlines final coal dust rule

Published by
World Coal,

The US Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released new rules aimed at lowering miners’ exposure to respirable dust in underground and opencast coal mines.

"This final rule fulfills a longstanding commitment that I made on my first day with MSHA, and one to which I have been dedicated most of my working life," said assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, Joseph A. Main. "We are finally moving forward to overhaul an outdated programme that has failed to adequately protect miners from breathing unhealthy levels of coal mine dust and achieving the intent of Congress to eliminate black lung disease."

Lowering exposure to coal dust

The final rule lowers the overall dust standard by 25% from 2 mg/m3 to 1.5 mg/m3 and halves the standard for certain mine entries and miners with pneumoconiosis from 1 mg/m3 to 0.5 mg/m3. It also increases the sampling required, including making use of technology to provide real-time information about dust levels, and requires immediate corrective action when a sample finds excessive concentration of dust.

The rule will be phased in over a two-year period to provide time for the industry to adjust to the new standards, acquire monitoring equipment and obtain assistance from the MSHA.

A lost opportunity

However, not all have greeted the new rules positively. Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association (NMA), criticised the rules for using a "one-size-fits-all" approach. The association had proposed alternative solutions to mine dust exposure, such as rotating miners through various jobs in the mine to reduce their overall coal-dust exposure and requiring miners to wear personal protection equipment. "Today's announcement represents a lost opportunity to provide better protection for those who need it, while providing more job security for all our coal miners," Quinn said.

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