While we’re well into the new year, I will not forget those miners we lost in 2022. Each fatality is felt deeply across the Mine Safety and Health Administration. It also reminds us of our core mission: to ensure that miners go home safe and healthy at the end of each shift. We made some progress this year in our efforts to help miners and mine operators prevent accidents and fatalities, particularly in powered haulage, but everyone in the mining industry must remain focused and committed to doing their part to protect miners’ safety and health.
MSHA leaned forward last year in using our existing powers and launching new initiatives to keep miners safe and healthy. On the enforcement side, MSHA issued a Pattern of Violations notice to a mine operator for persistent serious health and safety violations, the first time in eight years that such a notice had been issued. We intend to continue using all our available resources – including enforcement, compliance assistance, and outreach and education.
Last year, we also launched several initiatives to fulfill our mission.
MSHA launched a safety campaign to help educate miners and mine operators and to direct them toward MSHA resources. Take Time, Save Lives includes safety information such as reminders about the importance of proper training and attention to tasks. Topics covered include roof and rib safety, seat belt usage, powered haulage best practices, pillar collapse and fire suppression guidance.
We launched our “Miner Health Matters” campaign to raise the visibility of MSHA health initiatives. While MSHA works toward a new silica rule, we developed a silica enforcement initiative focused on sampling, compliance assistance and miners’ rights to better protect workers. We also implemented a new effort to educate and assist coal miners in exercising their rights under Title 30 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 90, to work in a less dusty and healthier section of the mine.;
Our Miner Outreach Vaccination Program administered more than 600 vaccinations and distributed more than 2,500 COVID test kits and over 3,000 masks to the mining industry and mining communities in 15 cities across seven states.
MSHA launched a new miner app to get health and safety information directly into miners’ hands. The app already has over 12,000 downloads and is available for free. It can be found by clicking Android or iPhone and can also be found at the respective app stores by searching for “Miner Safety & Health.” A Spanish language version is also available.
The new MSHA website provides easier navigation and makes MSHA tools and resources more accessible. Spanish translation is ongoing and will no longer rely on automatic translation tools that are not as accurate.
MSHA is expanding our inspector workforce. We launched an apprenticeship program to hire new inspectors, creating opportunities for a more diverse workforce that represents miners and mining communities
Follow our new page for the latest updates and resources at facebook.com/MineSafetyAndHealth.
There is much more work ahead in 2023. One of MSHA’s top priorities is publishing a proposed silica rule to better protect all miners from exposure to respirable crystalline silica and to update the existing respiratory protection standards. We will also continue to use all of our tools to work with labor, mine operators, grantees, and others in the mining industry to prevent accidents and promote greater awareness about miner safety. We are also broadening our capacity to reach miners and mining communities through in-person and online communities.
Chris Williamson is the assistant secretary for mine safety and health in the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.