Comprehensive inspections will increasingly focus on “identifying and controlling health hazards,” particularly in connection with the requirements of 30 CFR Parts 56/57.5002. MSHA says that it will be evaluating operator evidence of surveys conducted pursuant to the standard, which provides: “Dust, gas, mist, and fume surveys shall be conducted as frequently as necessary to determine the adequacy of control measures.”

MSHA is making a shift from “reacting to overexposures” to forcing operators to “conduct health hazard surveys and make appropriate changes to ensure miners are not overexposed to contaminants.” A PowerPoint MSHA has developed to train inspectors defines “survey” as follows:

  • The term “survey” denotes any information collection method that Yields information as to miner exposures Yields information as to the effectiveness of controls
  • Included under the category of survey activities, MSHA has listed: Exposure monitoring Workplace inspections Inspection of equipment Injury and illness reports Worker input

With regard to the frequency of surveys, MSHA has stated that this is up to the mine operator and may be based on past exposures, job changes, hazard changes, complaints or incidents. MSHA is instructing inspectors to ask operators to show past sampling results as proof that surveys are being conducted. (MSHA says it will not issue violations based on overexposures in the reports.) To view the Metal/Nonmetal Operators Exposure Monitoring Requirements Guidance, click here. To view the Procedure Instruction Letter, click here.

The new enforcement approach raises a myriad of legal issues. Some resemble recent workplace examination issues that now have been substantially resolved.