MSHA expected to extend workplace exam rule comment period

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association expects the deadline to file comments on MSHA’s proposed workplace exam rule to be extended by more than two weeks.

The association reports comments from the agency at an August 4 public hearing in Birmingham, Alabama.

MSHA is holding public hearings around the country dedicated to the discussion of the agency’s proposed rule, which would require pre-shift inspections of a worksite and documentation of any hazards.

Currently, operators inspect work areas during shifts and address safety issues that are discovered accordingly. The safety record of the industry has improved steadily for 15 years, so as currently written, the proposed rule is seen by National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association as overly prescriptive. It will likely undercut operator ability to manage for safety and is duplicative.

The proposal would also increase administrative tasks without requisite safety benefits, the association says.

The current comment deadline is September 6, but MSHA officials discussed possibly extending the deadline and further evaluating their proposed rule to better understand how it impacts operators. The agency wants to understand how operators conduct workplace exams, whether any possible future changes to the documentation provision might lessen worker concerns and what the costs would be if all exams had to be conducted only at the beginning of a shift.

Representatives from two National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association member companies, Brian McNamara, of Bluegrass Materials, and Matt Bunner, of Mulzer Crushed Stone, testified to the anticipated costs and effects of the proposal on both safety management and a facility’s bottom line. Requiring operators to conduct an exam before the start of a shift could reduce operator effectiveness in detecting hazards.

One National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association member said it could cost an extra $25,000 annually for a single midsized facility to pay workers who are waiting to start production. These kinds of costs usually contribute to higher costs of public works projects for taxpayers. Other National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association members have also recently testified at these public hearings.

With regards to the future treatment of documentation of hazards, MSHA explained that in the southeast district, the location of the hearing, a past violation could be cited only if it had not been abated. So, the problem remains that this provision could enable MSHA to “double dip” in writing citations.

Aggregates representatives also said that the proposed rule fails to address behavior of workers and managers, which is the biggest factor affecting safety management.

National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association is writing comments on the proposal and will continue to share updates with members throughout the process.

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