MSHA and Mining Industry Developments in 2023: A Year in Review

As 2023 draws to a close, an assessment of Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and mining industry developments reveals key trends and potential future directions.

Enforcement Intensification and Safety Alerts: In the past year, MSHA has escalated its enforcement efforts, emphasizing the Pattern of Violations (POV) authority and reinstating impact inspections. Despite these measures, fatal accidents in the mining industry increased, reaching 38 by December 5, 2023, compared to 30 in 2022. This surge is likely to shape MSHA’s enforcement focus and communication strategies in 2024.

Initiatives Addressing Fatalities and Injuries: With a historical emphasis on reducing fatalities, MSHA responded to the rise in fatal accidents by issuing safety alerts and best practice materials. The agency sought input from operators to address the trend and adjusted enforcement decisions based on fatality statistics.

Rulemaking Outlook for 2024: 2024 may witness significant rulemaking by MSHA, with potential finalization of the respirable crystalline silica rule and the mobile equipment safety program rule. Operators are proactively taking steps toward compliance with the proposed crystalline silica rule, recognizing its complexity and the need for preparation in areas such as engineering controls and medical surveillance.

POV and Impact Inspections: MSHA continued to wield its POV authority in 2023, with about 70 operations implementing corrective action plans. Impact inspections, which resumed in January 2023 after a hiatus since March 2020, are being publicized through monthly press releases, highlighting citations and orders issued.

New Inspectors and Potential Challenges: In response to retirements and departures, MSHA hired over 100 new inspectors, undergoing training and expected to start inspecting in 2024. However, concerns arise about their limited mining experience, potentially leading to judgment issues and inconsistent enforcement.

Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) Events: While less prominent, Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) developments, such as the 2023 KC Transport case, can impact MSHA activities and operators’ compliance. The case questioned MSHA’s jurisdiction over off-site mine equipment, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit deeming the Mine Act ambiguous and returning the case to the commission for further consideration.

In conclusion, the mining industry in 2023 witnessed intensified enforcement, increased fatal accidents, and potential rulemaking on the horizon. The article provides valuable insights for industry stakeholders as they navigate evolving safety and health landscapes.
{Source: “Where MSHA and the Mining Industry Are as 2023 Comes to an End.”}