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MSHA issued a new Program Policy Letter on August 13, 2013, clarifying that mine operators that comply with OSHA's HazCom Standard are also in compliance with MSHA's HazCom Standards, found at Part 47. Part 47 requires that mine operators identify chemicals, make a hazard determination, ensure that containers of hazardous chemicals have labels, have and make available a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical used or produced at the mine, and instruct miners on the physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the miners' work area, protective measures, and contents of the HazCom program.

This post discusses the most recent decision of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission ("Commission") regarding the appropriate legal standard for significant and substantial ("S&S") designations. Mine operators should make sure they are aware of the Commission's interpretation of the Mathies test as it evolves so that they can point out instances when the test is misapplied before an Inspector issues a citation.

The Commission's ...

Do you ever feel like you're alone in experiencing inconsistent or heavy-handed MSHA enforcement? If so, there's a new website where mine operators from around the country are able to share their experiences, post citations they have received, and learn more about MSHA enforcement nationwide.

UPDATE: On August 1, 2013, the full Senate by unanimous consent confirmed Robert F. Cohen Jr. and William I. Althen to serve on teh Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a Congressional Field Hearing to be held in North Carolina about "Building a Better Partnership" between the industry and MSHA. The hearing was held on June 21 and three industry representatives were able to publicly disclose some of the many issues presented by the current MSHA administration. Though it remains unclear whether Congress will take any action as a result, this hearing represents an important step toward ...

First of all, yes, I'm telling you that (at least in most cases) suing your former employees may not be the best labor relations strategy, unless of course they are violating a valid non-compete or misappropriating your Company's trade secrets. Recently, a coal company learned that suing a former employee for filing a "fraudulent" discrimination complaint can be a violation of the Mine Act.

In Armstrong Coal Company, Judge Feldman found that the Mine Act ...

Breaking news out of the SE M/NM District of MSHA - Don Collier will no longer be handling informal conferences under 30 C.F.R. Part 100.6. Beginning next Monday, June 17, 2013, requests for an informal conference must be directed to the issuing Inspector's Field Office Supervisor. As usual, the request must be submitted within 10 days of issuance of the citation or order, must be in writing, by email, or fax, and must include the specific reason(s) that each citation or order is being conferenced. Contact information for the Field Office Supervisors can be found here.

Some mining industry professionals would say that this hearing is long overdue, but let's all focus on the old adage, better late than never. On Friday, June 21, U.S. House of Representatives Member Mark Meadows (NC) is hosting a field hearing in Mitchell County, North Carolina entitled "Building a Better Partnership: Exploring the Mine Safety and Health Administration's Regulaiton of Southern Appalachian Mining." This important field hearing is being conducted through the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on Government Operations.

Recently, Congressional Democrats introduced the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2013, which if enacted would increase the authority of MSHA to regulate the mining industry. Yes, you read that right, increase MSHA's authority, not decrease. You may be thinking to yourself by now, "How is this possible?!?"

Still reacting to the tragic disaster at Upper Big Branch in 2010, MSHA has convinced some of our Representatives that it needs more ...

Mine operators have long relied on the protections of a limited liability company ("LLC") status to shield their individual agents from business-related liability. However, based on a decision from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC), MSHA can now seek civil and criminal penalties against individual agents of LLC's under Section 110(c) of the Mine Act.

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