The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officially delayed the effective date of the controversial “Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines” final rule by a full eight months to June 2, 2018 and temporarily reinstated the previous versions of the workplace examination rules – deemed 30 C.F.R. § 56.18002T and 30 C.F.R. § 57.18002T – that were in effect as of October 1, 2017.

The final rule was scheduled to go into effect in May of this year, but the Agency delayed implementation until October 2, 2017. As previously reported, on September 12, MSHA proposed to again delay the effective date of the Agency’s final rule by six months to allow additional time for training and compliance assistance. After the two-week comment period closed, MSHA notified stakeholders that the effective date of the rule would be delayed until June 2, 2018. The delay was published in the Federal Register on October 5, 2017.

MSHA reported that many commenters supported the further effective date delay, particularly while the Agency accepts comments on the proposed substantive changes to the final rule. When MSHA proposed the delay to the October 2, 2017 effective date, the Agency simultaneously reopened the rulemaking record and proposed amendments to two sections of the final rule related to the timing of required workplace examinations and the contents of the examination record, as we described in a recent blog post. MSHA is still accepting comments until November 13 on those proposed amendments. Many stakeholders requested that the Agency postpone the effective date beyond the six month mark or indefinitely in order to ensure that industry has clarity on the requirements of any new final rule and that the Agency has time to meet its stated training and outreach objectives. The Agency agreed with those commenters and believes that an eight-month delay until June 2, 2018 will provide sufficient time to ensure compliance readiness.

MSHA firmly rejected arguments made by labor union representatives that further delays in the effective date would have an adverse impact on miners’ health and safety, stating that “the standards that have been in effect for many years are reinstated and MSHA will continue to enforce those standards … [and] will proactively provide compliance assistance and training needed to assure that miners’ safety and health are protected.” 82 Fed. Reg. 46412 (Oct. 5, 2017).

MSHA will hold four public hearings on the proposed amendments to the final workplace examination rules in Arlington, Virginia (October 24, 2017); Salt Lake City, Utah (October 26, 2017); Birmingham, Alabama (October 31, 2017); and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (November 2, 2017). Each hearing will begin at 9 a.m. local time.