MSHA Proposes New Rule for Respirable Coal Dust Exposure

[tweetmeme]The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed a rule to lower miners’ exposure to respirable coat dust in all underground and surface coal mines. The action is the latest in MSHA’s End Black Lung—Act Now campaign. The proposal combines prior steps addressing lowering dust exposure, single sample, plan verification, and the use of continuous personal dust monitors.  It would also implement recommendations contained in the 1995 NIOSH report and other reports.

The NIOSH report can be accessed electronically at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/95-106.html, and the dust advisory committee report can be accessed at http://www.msha.gov/S&HINFO/BlackLung/1996Dust%20AdvisoryReport.pdf.

The rule would lower the existing concentration limits from 2 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air, or 2 mg/m(3), to 1 mg/m(3) over a 24-month phase-in period. Among other provisions, it would:

  • Require the use of continuous personal dust monitors.
  • Provide for use of a single, full-shift sample to determine compliance.
  • Address extended work shifts.
  • Redefine normal production shifts.
  • Expand medical surveillance.

MSHA points to recent NIOSH data indicating that cases of black lung are increasing among the nation’s coal miners, even younger miners. Over the past decade more than 10,000 miners have died from black lung. The federal government has paid out more than $44 billion in compensation for miners totally disabled by the condition since 1970.

A fact sheet on the proposal is posted on the MSHA website, www.msha.gov.

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