The move was made official June 27, just weeks after first announcing its plans during a May 12 stakeholder meeting at its headquarters.
On the positive side, MSHA has spotlighted an analysis it has completed of U.S. mining fatalities over a decade-long period that revealed an average 23% decrease in fatalities associated with the Rules to Live By standards, a group of commonly cited violations that it has selected to focus on along with nine underground exam rule regulations it deemed the riskiest. It also found in the study that significant and substantial, or S&S, citations dropped 37% on average as it relates to those standards.
MSHA also said fatalities associated with the exam rule have decreased an average of 22%, and S&S citations and orders issued for violations of the standards have declined an average of 45%. The Rules to Live By initiative began in 2010, and the exam rule was published two years later.
Despite the progress, the agency said it will start more extensively employing its web-based Rules to Live By and exam rule calculators to find mines’ citation and order totals for the most recent completed inspection periods. Operators will then be given a copy of the results by MSHA inspectors, encouraging them to use the tools to monitor their own compliance and take action to eliminate violations, officials said.
The results ultimately will be added to MSHA’s criteria for consideration of impact inspections, particularly targeting mines with elevated noncompliance.
“While we’ve seen progress in reducing mining deaths associated with both Rules to Live By and the exam rule, mine operators need to conduct better site inspections and take appropriate action to improve compliance with these standards,” said Joseph Main, agency assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “That is why we are increasing attention on these critical standards. We urge the mining industry to do the same.”