September 16, 2021

MSHA Seeks to Reduce Injuries Involving Surface Mobile Equipment at Mines

A new rule proposed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration would require certain mine operators to develop a written safety program for mobile and powered haulage equipment at surface mines and in surface areas of underground mines. MSHA’s proposal, which would apply to operators employing six or more miners, would provide “the flexibility to tailor the written safety program to meet the specific needs of [mine] operations and unique mining conditions,” according to the Federal Register. MSHA intends the proposed rule to reduce injuries and fatalities involving surface mobile equipment used at mines.

MSHA’s proposal follows an earlier announcement that nine miners had been killed by mid-July 2021 in accidents involving powered haulage equipment such as shuttle cars, scoops, locomotives, and front-end loaders—the highest number of annual powered-haulage fatalities since 2006. As of July 12, an additional 185 miners had been injured in similar accidents in 2021. The agency warns that “haul trucks and other large surface mining vehicles are capable of destroying smaller vehicles that cannot be seen by the operator.”

MSHA estimates that 88 percent of all miners in the United States work at mines that employ six or more miners. Operations of this size “often have more complex mining operations and more surface mobile equipment” than smaller mines, in the agency’s experience.

MSHA requests comments on whether it should require all mine operators, regardless of size, to develop a written safety program. The agency especially encourages stakeholders to provide feedback on the economic feasibility of requiring operators with five or fewer miners to develop a written safety program. The public comment period for MSHA’s proposed rule will be open through Nov. 8.

Further information is available in MSHA’s press release and the Federal Register.