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Main Addresses NSSGA Convention

Joseph A. Main, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, on March 16 addressed the National Sand, Stone and Gravel Association’s 2015 Convention in Baltimore.

Main said that MSHA, the mining industry and others have made many improvements, particularly in the past five years, that are laying the foundation for better protections for miners.

He noted that MSHA’s extensive outreach to and communications with stakeholders, including the NSSGA, has contributed to these efforts and assisted the industry in reaching the lowest fatal and injury rates in metal and nonmetal mining history in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“However, the recent increases in deaths at metal and nonmetal mines are overshadowing those improvements,” Main said. “In 2014, 42 miners died in mining accidents. Sixteen occurred at coal mines, the lowest number ever recorded. Twenty-six were at metal and nonmetal mines, an increase from last year and part of a disturbing trend of 38 fatalities that began in October 2013. Fourteen of these deaths were at aggregate mines.”

Main said that MSHA is stepping up enforcement, looking hard at conditions that caused these 38 fatalities, and “we are asking the industry to do the same. We are continuing our outreach and education, including ‘walk and talks’ with miners and operators and sharing information with the industry on the deaths and the best practices to prevent them. During the first week in February, as the NSSGA joined us at stakeholder meetings, we were increasing these efforts.”

Main spoke about a new online tool to assist operators, miners, MSHA and others to monitor every mine’s violations of the “Rules to Live By” standards that are frequently cited following mining deaths.

“MSHA intends, and operators should, use this new tool, which lists all Rules to Live By standards cited during the last MSHA inspection and automatically highlights if a mine’s violation rate is above the national average, to reduce metal and nonmetal deaths,” Main said. “The “Rules to Live By” standards were cited in about half of the 29 investigations on the fatalities that we have completed so far.

“During the past five years, we have worked hard at MSHA to retool mine safety and health,” Main said. “Since I arrived at the agency, engagement with and outreach to the mining community has been central to my approach for improving stakeholder communications and participation, providing better industry compliance guidance and consistency in our enforcement – and above all – to make mines safer for miners.”