March 11, 2021

"Stronger" Guidance from MSHA Aims to Protect Miners from COVID-19

New guidance issued by MSHA on March 10 is intended to help mine operators and workers mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in coal, metal, and nonmetal mines. The agency’s updated recommendations are described in a Department of Labor press release as “stronger worker safety guidance” that will help miners and operators identify and control risks of being exposed to the virus SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.

Like the updated guidance issued by OSHA on Jan. 29, MSHA’s new guidance stresses the importance of implementing COVID-19 prevention programs at each mine. According to the MSHA guidance, operators should—as part of these programs—conduct a hazard assessment, identify control measures that limit COVID-19 spread in mine settings, ensure that measures are in place to separate and send home potentially infected miners, and implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise concerns related to COVID-19. According to MSHA, these prevention programs are most effective when employers engage miners and their representatives throughout the programs’ development and implementation.

MSHA’s guidance also discusses ventilation improvements, the use of face coverings, and the use of personal protective equipment as additional measures that can help limit COVID-19 spread in mines.

The new guidance is not a standard or regulation. According to MSHA, the guidance will be updated as science, best practices, and standards develop. For more information, refer to the full guidance or the press release announcing its availability. Further details about MSHA’s response to COVID-19 can be found on the agency’s website.