The first part of the landmark regulation meant to prevent black lung disease takes effect Friday. This phase is meant to fix regulatory loopholes in the sampling process.
The first phase taking effect is broken into twelve parts including:
- No more 'average' dust rates: Mines can be cited for a single MSHA sample shows excessive dust levels.Currently mines sample five shifts, takes the average and as long as it averaged below the standardized level, no action was changed.
- Fix it now: Action must be taken when a full shift sample finds levels of dust in the air exceed limits.
- Changing methods of citing overexposures and averaging samples obtained by operators: If mine operators fail to take corrective action for any sample that finds excessive levels of dust, or if two out of five operator samles, or three out of 15 operator samples, or the average of all samples finds excessive levels of dust, the mine will be cited.
- "Normal production shift" redefined: Samples should be taken for the full shift. Miners shifts are not always eight hours.
- Surface Mine Samples: Operators must begin to identify places to sample at surface mines. The sampling starts Oct. 1.
- Training and Certification: Persons collecting samples must complete an MSHA course and pass the exam. Samplers, trainers can be decertified if training is inadequate.
- Excessive Concentration Value (ECV): New concept to account for possible margin of error
- Improved record keeping and accountability: On shift exams of specific dust controls must be made, recorded and signed by a mine official as well as shift length and production of the mine
- More medical surveillance: X-rays available to surface miners while other tests are expanded for all miners
- Include surface miners with black lung to be removed from areas of mine: Previously only underground miners with evidence of black lung could elect to work in less dusty atmospheres.
- More sampling: Sampling of miners with black lung with increase
Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration said in an interview earlier this summer, this phase will help regulators get a clearer picture of the amount of dust miners are exposed to.
"It’s what they should be doing now in terms of the examination," Main said. "This is going to hold them accountable in terms of making sure that examinations are actually being done."
Part of the first phase requires operators to check every dust control system in the mine plan, immediately correct any issues, and record the findings.
At the Upper Big Branch Disaster in 2010, 29 miners died after explosion ripped through a mine in Raleigh County. Reports found that sprayers meant to reduce dust levels and explosion hazards were clogged and not working properly.