MSHA: Sampling Results Show Compliance with Coal Dust Rule Is "Highly Achievable"

Published July 27, 2016

Approximately 99 percent of the respirable coal mine dust samples collected from April 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, were in compliance with MSHA’s coal mine dust standards, the agency announced earlier this month. These results indicate that operator compliance with the agency’s recent final rule to lower miners' exposure to respirable coal dust is “highly achievable,” MSHA stated in a press release. The final rule, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2014, is intended to prevent black lung disease among coal miners due to exposure to coal mine dust.

MSHA analyzed more than 20,000 underground coal mine operator samples using the continuous personal dust monitor (CPDM), a piece of wearable technology that provides real-time measurements of accumulated and full-shift exposures to respirable coal mine dust. Underground coal mine operators’ use of CPDMs is required under the second phase of the rule, which began on Feb. 1, 2016. Operators were required to use CPDMs to measure dust levels in real time and monitor underground coal mine occupations exposed to the highest respirable dust concentrations, including all miners with signs of black lung. They were also required to collect an increased number of respirable coal mine dust samples and notify miners more quickly about the results of sampling.

The first phase of the rule placed requirements on coal mine operators such as sampling full shifts consecutively, sampling at 80 percent of normal production, and conducting thorough examinations of the dust controls on each shift.

“MSHA’s analysis of the sampling results from Phase I found that more than 97 percent of the samples collected would have met compliance at the lower level,” the agency’s press release reads. “The results from Phase II show that more than 98 percent would have been in compliance at the lower level.”

The two-year phase-in period to allow mine operators adequate time to comply with MSHA’s respirable dust standards is nearly over. The third and final phase, set to begin on Aug. 1, 2016, will lower the current exposure limit in the overall dust standard from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) at underground and surface coal mines.

For more information, see MSHA’s webpage on the respirable coal dust rule.