This article summarizes operational changes the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) will make in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes were discussed in MSHA’s April 16, 2020 Quarterly Stakeholder Call.
To begin, MSHA will abide by the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America (“Guidelines”) until the Guidelines are lifted, which at the earliest would be April 30, 2020. The Guidelines generally require that individuals feeling sick stay home, and that individuals associated with a “Critical Infrastructure Industry” follow Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) guidelines while in the workplace. The CDC guidelines mandate several different strategies to reduce risk of transmission among individuals, such as the use of Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) and active monitoring of potential COVID-19 symptoms.
While the Guidelines are in effect, MSHA will continue to perform statutorily-required mine inspections, including serious accident investigations and investigations of hazard complaints that involve imminent danger or that are “serious” in nature. MSHA inspectors, to the extent possible, will maintain social distance from mine employees during these inspections.
MSHA, however, will suspend or modify other activities that could result in groups of miners gathered at mine sites. Suspended activities include Educational Field and Small Mine Services visits and safety and fatality initiatives. MSHA will also work with operators to grant extensions or modifications to mandatory trainings as necessary to maintain social distancing.
MSHA acknowledged that many states have implemented COVID-19 guidelines or orders that may be more restrictive than the federal Guidelines. MSHA acknowledged that it has no jurisdiction to enforce or implement these state orders. Accordingly, MSHA encourages any mine operator with questions or concerns about how state or local orders may impact operator’s obligations under the Mine Act to contact their MSHA District Office.
MSHA’s COVID-19 web page is accessible here.
For a PDF version of this article, click here.
James Anderson is an Associate at Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Johnson LLP in Sacramento, California.
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