MSHA issues formal response to COVID-19

June 23, 2020

While cases of COVID-19 continues to spread in some mining operations in the United States, some miners have turned to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health (MSHA) for guidance.

The United Mine Workers of America and United Steelworkers both requested that the agency publish emergency guidelines related to COVID-19 for the country's mines. Wyoming Public Media reported that the labor groups contend voluntary guidance is not a substitute for mandatory and legally enforceable COVID-19 protocols.

The two unions, which collectively represent thousands of workers nationwide, had previously requested temporary guidelines from MSHA) in both March and May.

MSHA has now posted its official response on its website. The agency said it is abiding by the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, which are based on the CDC Interim Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019.

“The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s mission is to protect the safety and health of the nation’s miners. As long as miners continue to work at a mine, MSHA will continue to perform its statutorily-required essential functions within the parameters of the President’s and Department’s guidance, as well as that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” MSHA said in the post.

The agency outlines what mine operators and miners should do to stay safe and issued a list of tasks that it will take in response to the pandemic. MSHA will continue to perform its essential functions, including mandatory inspections, serious accident investigations, and investigations of hazard complaints (imminent danger or serious in nature).

The agency has suspended educational field and small mine services visits, as well as special safety and fatality initiatives that normally would gather groups of miners on-site to discuss powered haulage, electrocution, and contractor safety. And to the extent feasible, inspectors are maintaining distance from miners while performing inspections.

MSHA will work with mine operators when it comes to many recertification efforts. Exemptions to recertifications will not be granted; however, their due dates will be extended by at least the time the government is operating under the President’s emergency declaration. And, “this exception does not apply to new miner training. New miners must be trained before beginning work. Once the Emergency Declaration is lifted, mine operators should work with their respective district offices to ensure that all certifications are conducted in a timely manner.”

The full response from MSHA can be found here.


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