The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced today that it would hold a public meeting on its recent Request for Information (RFI) on Respirable Silica (Quartz). That RFI, published on August 29, 2019, requests that stakeholders provide, by October 28, 2019, “information and data on feasible best practices” to protect miners from quartz in respirable dust. Significantly, the RFI also invites an “examination of an appropriately reduced permissible exposure limit, potential new or developing protective technologies, and/or technical and educational assistance. The public meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 17, 2019, at MSHA Headquarters, 201 12th Street South, Arlington, VA 22202–5452.
Although it is still unclear whether this informational effort will—in the face of Trump administration restrictions on new regulations—lead to rulemaking on a proposed rule in the short term, the process is critically important. The RFI is a demonstration of the pressure that has been brought to bear on the agency since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted the lower permissible exposure limit (50 micrograms per cubic meter). Industry stakeholders need to be fully engaged in this process. Many operators will certainly participate through their associations, but it also will be important to have as many individual industry voices commenting as possible.