With frantic negotiations continuing in the Senate—as of this writing—to find an agreement that will end the government shutdown, it is possible that this article is reaching you after a solution has been reached. Nonetheless, given the polarized nature of Congress and the very real possibility that we will find ourselves back in a stalemate in a few weeks, we thought it might be instructive to provide you with the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) shutdown contingency plan.
The contingency plan, issued on January 19, 2018, by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David G. Zatezalo, commits the agency to continuing its regular inspection schedule of surface and underground mines during the shutdown. Specifically, the plan states that “MSHA will continue to conduct regular inspections—twos and fours—during a lapse of funding.” In addition, the plan also commits MSHA to continue to conduct targeted inspections at mines based on mine history, hazard-specific inspections, investigations of accidents, hazard-complaint inspections, and sample analysis.
To complete these inspection duties, the agency has designated 1,099 members of its overall workforce, which is comprised of 2,054 workers, as essential personnel who will work full-time during the shutdown. The personnel excepted from the shutdown consist of 1,085 inspectors, field office supervisors, district management and support personnel, and a limited number of clerical personnel. Only 14 employees at MSHA headquarters have been deemed essential during the shutdown.
So, if anyone thought that a shutdown would provide mine operators with a reprieve from inspections, they need to think again. It is business as usual in the field for MSHA.