Despite concerns voiced by the mining industry that it would have trouble meeting the requirements of a rule to reduce respirable coal mine dust, approximately 99 percent of the 7,456 valid respirable dust samples collected during the first two months under the rule met compliance levels, according to the US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30, MSHA collected 4,255 dust samples from 515 coal mines; 20 of those (about .5 percent) exceeded compliance levels used to determine if a violation is warranted. Of the 3,201 samples submitted by mine operators, 42 (1.3 percent) exceeded compliance levels.
The rule, called Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, Including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors, became effective on Aug. 1. It substantially increases operator sampling for respirable coal mine dust and requires an operator to take immediate corrective action when an operator’s sample shows excessive concentrations. The final rule authorizes MSHA to cite an operator based on a single MSHA sample showing excessive dust, rather than on an average of samples.
In collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, MSHA will host a series of workshops on Best Practices for Controlling Respirable Dust in Coal Mines.
The first workshop will take place on Oct. 28, at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, West Virginia. Mine managers and operational staff, mine workers, safety and health professionals, mine engineers, manufacturers and consultants are encouraged to attend. Additional workshops will be held in Birmingham, Alabama; Evansville, Indiana; and Grand Junction, Colorado, in 2015.
Prolonged exposure to respirable coal mine dust causes lung diseases, such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, emphysema and progressive massive fibrosis. These diseases, collectively referred to as black lung, can lead to permanent disability and death.
According to NIOSH estimates, more than 76,000 miners have died since 1968 as the result of the disease, and more than $45 billion in federal compensation benefits have been paid out to coal miners disabled by black lung and their survivors.