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MSHA Regulatory Agenda Takes Shape

The end of the Obama Administration is fewer than eight months away, but MSHA’s Spring Regulatory Agenda demonstrates the Administration’s push for more regulatory burdens on operators, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).

According to the agenda released during the week of May 16, MSHA is likely delaying the release of “limited” final rule on civil penalties (Part 100). The rule, which was due to come out this month, is now listed in the “long term action” section of MSHA’s regulatory agenda.

“We are heartened that MSHA appears to be rethinking the civil penalties rule and put it on a slow track,” said Pam Whitted, NSSGA senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs. “We argued vehemently in opposition through written comments and oral testimony, and it would seem that MSHA heard our views.”

NSSGA has opposed the proposed rule since its release because it would increase costs associated with MSHA penalties by a range of 50 to 80 percent, and these increases dramatically undercut an operator’s ability to invest in safety.

MSHA plans to propose a rule on workplace exams soon. NSSGA has long been concerned that such a rule would impose excessive burdens on operators with no equal benefit to employee safety and health. The rule could impose additional paperwork and costs onto operators, which would take away from their ability to manage the safety of workers.

Following an OSHA rule from earlier in the year, an MSHA could release a rule in September that reduces occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. NSSGA filed comprehensive comments on OSHA’s crystalline silica rule that was finalized and issued in March, and has since filed legal action against the rule. The association maintains that the aggregates industry’s compliance with previous regulations has been effective in reducing and appropriately monitoring silica exposure to workers and that OSHA’s justification for this stricter regulation is not based on sound science.

A final rule on proximity detection systems in underground mines could be issued in August, though MSHA stated that metal/non-metal operators would not be forced to comply with the rule. The agency also may issue a request for information in June on the matter of underground miners’ exposure to diesel exhaust.