MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main and Neal Merrifield, metal/non-metal administrator, gathered with stakeholders in the Southeast district May 21 to outline plans for future efforts to curb fatalities. Among the steps MSHA plans to take to curb the tide of fatalities are:
• Re-directing coal inspectors to the MNM sector, for increased enforcement, especially in underground mines;
• Arranging for all staff of the MSHA Educational Policy Development Department – including those folded into the EPD from what formerly was known as the Small Mines Consultation Program – to conduct “walk & talk” visits at mines to promote safety practices;
• Conducting a webinar on the fatalities for certified safety trainers;
• Increasing emphasis on the four-year-old Rules to Live By program;
• Checking on the efficacy of the emphasis program on 56.5002 (air contaminants); and
• Re-tooling MSHA training programs.
Main was quick to point out that, after completion of analysis of all recent fatalities, the agency may take additional steps to eliminate fatalities.
NSSGA then took the opportunity to suggest that a reduction in fatalities can come not from increased enforcement heaped upon the industry, but by virtue of emphasis on key “best practices.” These include:
• Focusing on obligations to thoroughly comply with such mandates as conducting workplace exams and pre-shift exams for mobile equipment.
• Ensuring that training is effective by: preparing training programs, delivering training in an interactive manner; and evaluating training effectiveness.
• Focusing on factors that can influence a worker’s sense of risk, e.g., overestimating capability (strength), familiarity with task, seriousness of the outcome, familiarity with the task (complacency), over confidence in equipment, etc.

Other stakeholder groups made presentations on requested improvements from MSHA. The North Carolina group urged for a return of State Grants funding, and clarity on the need to chock wheels on mine property. The Kentucky group expressed its appreciation for MSHA’s outreach, stated that the OSHA silica permissible exposure limit should not be reduced, and urged that a proximity detection rule is not needed in underground aggregates facilities. The South Carolina Association presented on frequency of different types of injuries, suggesting that such analysis be factored into future MSHA evaluations of relative risk at facilities. Additionally, Randy Mucha, chairman of the NSSGA safety committee and representing the Portland Cement industry, presented on ways in which benchmarking safety performance can enable other stakeholders to improve their own company performances.