US Department of Labor issues stronger mine safety guidance on coronavirus

March 10, 2021

The U.S. Department of Labor issued stronger worker safety guidance to help mine operators and mine workers implement a COVID-19 protection program and better identify risks that could lead to exposure.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) “Protecting Miners: MSHA Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. MSHA is providing the recommendations to help mine operators and miners identify coronavirus risks.

“The pandemic has cost too many Americans their lives or their well-being. Together, employers and workers have vital roles in making their workplaces as safe as possible to counter this terrible disease,” said senior counselor to the secretary of labor M. Patricia Smith. “Mine operations face unique challenges, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s updated guidance includes recommendations to help mining communities fight the virus, and eventually end its devastating health and economic consequences.”

Implementing a coronavirus protection program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance announced today recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:

? Conduct a hazard assessment.
? Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
? Adopt policies for miners who are absent that does not punish them as a way to encourage potentially infected miners to remain home.
? Ensure communication of coronavirus policies and procedures to English and non-English speaking workers.
? Implement protections from retaliation for miners who raise coronavirus-related concerns.

“The mining industry depends on the safety of mine operations and the safety and well-being of its mineworkers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Jeannette Galanis. “This updated guidance provides U.S. mine operators with important recommendations for protecting miners from coronavirus and reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.”

The guidance details key measures for limiting the coronavirus’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected miners are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning.

MSHA will update today’s guidance as developments in science, best practices and standards warrant.

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.

MSHA works to prevent death, illness and injury from mining and promote safe and healthful workplaces for U.S miners. The agency develops and enforces safety and health rules for all U.S. mines regardless of size or number of employees. MSHA also provides technical, educational and other types of assistance to mine operators. MSHA works cooperatively with industry, labor and other federal and state agencies to improve safety and health conditions for all miners in the U.S.



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