MSHA Drops Civil Penalties Rule from Fall Agenda

NSSGA advising Trump transition team on dangers of other rules on the 2017 agenda

NSSGA is proud to report that the Obama administration’s civil penalties reform effort appears to be over. In a major win for aggregates operators, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fall 2016 Agency Rule List shows that MSHA is no longer seeking to reform the system by which civil penalties are assessed against operators.

“While we are pleased that this administration will not enact this unnecessary regulation, we continue to advise the Trump transition team on the negative effects that this and other regulations have on our operations,” said Michael W. Johnson, NSSGA president and CEO.

Since being issued in 2014, NSSGA constantly fought the proposal through testimony at multiple public hearings, formal written comments, meetings with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and in meetings with key congressional committees. According to NSSGA’s conservative estimate, the rule would have increased 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. Last year alone, MSHA assessed about $12 million in penalty costs against aggregates operators. Click here for a full digest on NSSGA’s efforts to combat this rule with the support of member companies.

NSSGA continues to express concerns to the incoming administration on other regulations that MSHA listed on the agenda and could pursue in 2017. That way, President Trump and his team have a clear understanding of the negative impacts of these regulations.

MSHA Moves Quickly on Workplace Exams Update

MSHA sent a final rule on workplace examinations to the OMB on Nov. 18. NSSGA expects to soon restate the industry’s concerns to OMB which include MSHA’s lack of tangible evidence of any need for changing the current workplace exams standard. The Office will ultimately approve or deny the rule.

The aggregates industry has seen the lowest injury rate in history, just 2 injuries per 200,000 hours worked in 2015, under the current workplace exams standard. Yet, MSHA looks to pursue this proposed rule that does little to improve workplace safety. As proposed, the rule would require that workplace examinations be done at the beginning of the shift and cover any areas that could conceivably be worked during a shift. Currently, operators inspect work areas during shifts and address safety issues that are discovered accordingly.

NSSGA continues to advise the Trump administration transition team on this overly prescriptive and unnecessary regulation that will likely undercut operator ability to manage for safety.

MSHA Expected to Pursue Crystalline Silica Rule

According to the regulatory agenda, MSHA plans to issue a new rule regarding crystalline silica April 2017. Despite the fact that silica-related illnesses have dropped dramatically the past four decades, the agency expressed an interest in issuing a rule similar to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule from March 2016. That rule reduced the workplace exposure limit by half, from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms per cubic meter over an eight-hour work shift.

NSSGA filed a lawsuit against the rule in April 2016, as objective evidence demonstrates that many commercial laboratories that analyze workplace air samples do not consistently provide the analytical accuracy at this lower limit. Compliance with the existing standard fully protects workers. Also, OSHA’s justification for this stricter regulation was not based on sound science.

Yet, this rule is projected to be issued during President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, and he has emphasized a commitment to reigning in the Obama administration’s regulatory over-reach. So, it may very well be that the Trump administration will take a different view than the current administration.

Regulating Diesel Exhaust a Possibility

The regulatory agenda shows MSHA’s interest in a possible new permissible exposure limit for diesel exhaust in underground facilities. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has partnered with MSHA to study the matter, discuss health of underground miners and determine whether a rulemaking in this area is warranted. NSSGA will continue to monitor this situation.

Proximity Detection in Focus

Finally, it appears that MSHA will look for comments on a possible rule on proximity detection systems for mobile machines in underground operations. NSSGA has previously asserted that there is no need for such a rule and will continue to monitor this issue.