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Safety & Health

EMA supports practical measures that are based put the safety and health of mine employees first.

Safety: the Industry’s #1 Priority

The safety and health of employees is paramount to EMA’s members. Accordingly, in 2003 EMA established a formal collaborative alliance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The association also works closely with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on safety and health policy and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to help set industry best practices. Senior officials from these agencies routinely speak at EMA conferences, and MSHA ceremonially presents EMA’s Safety Awards each year.

EMA closely monitors new policies and regulations that impact the safety and health of employees and communities but also the impact of policy on the industry’s ability to maintain a stable supply of essential minerals. Ensuring regulations are fair and equitable is important for the industry’s role in the manufacturing supply chain.

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Respirable Crystalline Silica

MSHA published a final rule in 2024 to set the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. EMA agrees that this change is long overdue and would harmonize the limit with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As noted by OSHA’s Inspector General in 2016, “OSHA indicated that after evaluating the best available evidence it was uncertain if there was any limit that would result in zero harm to workers,” but that “both OSHA and NIOSH warned that 50 μg/m³ is the lowest feasible limit.”

However, EMA’s comments to MSHA questioned the necessity of applying an Action Limit of 25 μg/m³ equally in both the coal and metal/nonmetal sectors of the mining industry. There is documented evidence the metal/nonmetal sector is not similarly afflicted with silicosis and pneumoconiosis, and numerous witnesses at MSHA’s silica hearings contended that the risk has proven to be manageable in that sector.

Safety Program for Surface Mobile Equipment

In 2024, MSHA issued a final rule that requires mine operators to have written safety programs for surface mobile equipment (excluding belt conveyors) at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines.  EMA appreciates that MSHA requires a written safety program, versus a safety plan requiring District Manager approval, that does not mandate adoption of specific technologies. Rather, the rule allows each operator flexibility to craft a written safety program based on that operator’s mine size, mining methods, number and types of equipment, climatic conditions, etc. EMA members collaborated with MSHA on sample safety programs for the industry to emulate.

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Heat Injury and Illness

In 2021, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. EMA believes it is vital that a regulatory agency thoughtfully triage the need for rulemaking based on real-world data, yet to support its arguments, OSHA relied on data which clearly demonstrate that heat illness as a hazard does not necessitate rulemaking, either in terms of fatalities or injuries resulting in days away from work. Regrettably, by aggregating mining with oil and gas extraction, OSHA also explicitly overstated the incidence of heat illness in the mining industry.

To focus its resources on one of the least consequential hazards under its jurisdiction is inconsistent with OSHA’s history of addressing hazards that affect workers most. If OSHA proceeds with rulemaking, the agency should strive to strategically protect workers from extreme heat (and cold) without imposing undue burdens on employers whose workplaces pose little or no risk.


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