Ensuring a safe workplace is critical for workers, managers, and business owners alike. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was created to provide regulatory guidance on health, safety standards, and best practices at all mine sites in the US. MSHA guidelines have proven to be invaluable when it comes to preserving worker safety while maintaining compliance. In this post, we will explore MSHA in greater detail so you can stay informed of its regulations as a manager or business owner, as well as understand what it takes for maintenance technicians working in mines to comply with the rules set forth by MSHA.
What is MSHA? What Does MSHA Stand for?
MSHA stands for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. It is an agency that advocates for a safe work environment by enforcing standards to protect miners. MSHA is responsible for ensuring all active mines operate safely, with an emphasis on providing workers with needed resources while complying with regulations set in place by the agency.
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 established MSHA as a Department of Labor agency. MSHA enforces the safety and health laws (and the accompanying paperwork) under the Mine Act at all mining and mineral processing operations of all sizes in the United States. The Mine Act was the first piece of American legislation to make mine safety training mandatory. Additionally, it implemented several crucial safety regulations.
Is MSHA the Same as OSHA?
While they are similar, MSHA and OSHA are two separate agencies. OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is also a Department of Labor agency. However, MSHA has significantly more authority and power than OSHA does. In fact, a contractor may work on an OSHA-regulated job site for their whole career without ever encountering an OSHA inspection. OSHA inspectors often don’t show up without a reason, such as a major injury, fatality, or hazard complaint. However, under the Mine Act, inspections of underground mines must occur at least four times annually and at least twice annually for surface mines.
The Difference Between the Two Agencies
- Open Search Warrant – MSHA has an open search warrant for all mining facilities. That means you must allow them to inspect anything they ask to see. If you refuse, the inspector can return with Federal Marshals and a $50,000 fine.
- Regular Inspections – MSHA requires at least two inspections per year, depending on the facility.
- Power to Close Facilities – Without a court order, MSHA inspectors can close a mine.
- Civil Penalties – If MSHA finds an individual member of mine management in violation of a regulation, they can give a personal MSHA fine that is illegal for the company to pay. The individual must pay with their own money.
- Criminal Penalties – Even when there are no fatalities, MSHA can impose criminal penalties for accidents.
- Safety Complaint Lawsuits – Miners can use MSHA safety complaints to sue the mine for discrimination.
The Impact of MSHA
The goal of MSHA is to reduce fatalities and injuries in American mines. They must be doing something well, based on the drop in fatality numbers. One of MSHA’s focus points in recent years is contractor compliance. Regardless of the job, MSHA regulates everyone who does anything at the mine site. Those who work in construction, independent contractors, employees of independent contractors, and any other workers, even those who restock the vending machines, are all subject to MSHA regulation. That makes awareness of MSHA and its regulations crucial for mines and any companies providing services to a mining organization. This post covered the far-reaching power and authority of MSHA, making contractor compliance efforts all the more valuable.