The United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration recently began the implementation of Phase II of a 2014 respirable coal dust rule. Per the new phase, underground coal mine operators are required to collect an increased number of coal dust samples, use a continuous personal dust monitor to measure dust levels in real time, and notify miners more quickly about the results of dust sampling. To that end, coal-mine workers will be required to incorporate a CPDM, a belt-wearable, computerized device that measures and displays an individual’s accumulated and full-shift exposure to respirable coal mine dust.
Per MSHA, since the landmark respirable coal dust rule went into effect on Aug. 1, 2014, 87,534 dust samples have been collected from 1,363 surface and underground coal mines. Roughly 99 percent of those samples have met MSHA compliance levels.
MSHA assistant secretary of labor, Joseph A. Main, said, “For the first time, coal miners will know, in real-time, how much coal-mine dust they are breathing during their shift, so that immediate corrective actions can be taken. This marks the next step in our efforts to end black-lung disease, once and for all. This strategically crafted rule was designed to be feasible and to achieve lower exposures to coal-mine dust. It is already delivering positive results.”
The agency’s attempt to affect a more dynamic approach to the issue of coal-mine dust exposure includes a stringent sample-rate for those employees who work in high-exposure occupations – 15 valid samples must be obtained every quarter, instead of the five samples previously collected every two months. Furthermore, by implementation of the new respirable coal dust rule, a clearly defined time-frame has been established with the new phase, one in which operators must post the results of CPDM sampling within 12 hours of the sampled shift and provide any miner with evidence of black-lung via the related sample data, within the first hour of the miner’s next work-shift.
This sweeping reform to the existing coal-mine dust policy represents an effort on behalf of MSHA to stamp out unnecessary black-lung death in the industry. As an industry that innately involves dust respiration, coal-mine dust, and silica exposure, safety leaders would be well-served to utilize a MSHA-approved online training course as a resource to maintain compliance and the safety of their respective employees.