On Monday, September 30, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reinstated an Obama-era rule imposing heightened requirements for health and safety workplace examinations in surface metal and nonmetal mines. The reinstatement represents yet another volley in an already protracted regulatory process spanning two presidential administrations and multiple lawsuits.
The 2017 Obama-era rule, marking one of the administration’s final acts, required that:
- workplace exams had to be completed before miners begin work in the area examined;
- operators had to notify miners in the affected areas of conditions that might adversely affect health and safety;
- operators had to promptly initiate action to correct those adverse conditions;
- the workplace exam records had to include specific information, including, among other things, a description of all conditions found that might adversely affect health or safety and a notation as to when the corrective actions were complete; and
- records of the workplace exams had to be made available to MSHA and miner representatives upon request.
The rule initially went into effect on October 2, 2017. Just three days later, however, MSHA withdrew the rule, delaying the effective date to June 2018.
Following the 2017 election, the Trump administration published a revised rule that featured two key changes. First, examinations could be carried out either before work starts or as work was getting underway. Second, exam records no longer had to document adverse conditions, so long as the conditions were promptly corrected.