New standards issued for mine safety | CraigDailyPress.com
Susan Ghysels

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New standards issued for mine safety

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently caught up with other industries by publishing standards to help reduce chemical-related injuries. But, at least one local mine has had many of the new regulations in place for about 10 years.

The new Hazard Communication standard, which MSHA published on Oct. 3, will require mine operators to assess the hazards of chemicals they produce or use. In addition, it requires the mine to train miners and provide them with information on these hazards. The standard becomes effective in just under a year on Oct. 3, 2001.

Although mines must follow MSHA regulations for many safety issues, there hasn’t been any official rules regarding chemical safety.

“The standard has been a long time in the making,” Rodney Brown, public affairs officer for MSHA, said. “Many industries have already come up with hazardous communication rules and we felt it was something that was definitely needed.”

MSHA believes it can reduce the number of chemical-related accidents by educating miners and making them aware of the dangers.

“If a miner knows how to recognize substances and the harm they can do to him, he’ll know to avoid them,” Brown said.

MSHA estimates the coal mining industry in the United States will spend $1.7 million becoming compliant with the new regulations. Jim Andrews, the safety and health supervisor at Colowyo Coal Company in Craig said his company already follows most of new regulations and won’t need to spend much time or money to be compliant.

“For the companies that haven’t already started down the path, it’s going to take them some time. We just need to tweak the program some,” he said.

Colowyo based their chemical-safety program on the Material Safety Data Sheet and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations for other industries. The mine looks at every chemical used in the mine and identifies its content and explains what protective measures employees need to take when handling it. Since Colowyo’s program is similar to OSHA regulations and the new MSHA standards also mirror OSHA regulations, Colowyo will only need to make a few changes to it’s current safety program.

“We look at it from the point of view that it’s a good program and already have some of the parts in place,” Andrews said. “One of our values is to protect the health and safety of our employees.”