October 1, 2010
MSHA reminds miners they can request inspections for hazardous conditions
By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released two new program information bulletins pertaining to the rights of miners who make hazardous condition complaints and request inspections, as well as miners’ protections against discrimination.
MSHA decided to distribute these guidelines based on testimony delivered in May during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing in Beckley, W.Va., as well as testimony delivered during recent Senate hearings. Statements from family members of miners who died in the April 5, 2010, explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine indicated that workers who had expressed concerns over safety conditions existing prior to the deadly blast feared retaliation by mine management.
Section 103(g)(1) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 provides that a miner or miners’ representative has the right to obtain an immediate MSHA inspection if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an imminent danger, a violation of the Mine Act, or a violation of a mandatory safety or health standard exists. The agency will conduct a special inspection to determine if a violation or danger exists, issue a citation or order as appropriate, and take all reasonable steps to maintain and assure the confidentiality of the complainant.
MSHA maintains an anonymous hotline to report hazardous conditions. The phone number is 800-746-1553. Persons may also report hazardous conditions at the nearest MSHA district office or online at www.msha.gov, and MSHA will promptly launch an investigation.
“Miners have a right to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, in a prepared statement. “The more people participate actively in mine safety, the better.”
Section 105(c) of the Mine Act prohibits individuals from discriminating against miners; applicants for employment and representatives of miners for exercising statutory rights, especially concerning safety or health activities such as identifying hazards; requesting MSHA inspections; or refusing to engage in unsafe work.
“MSHA will vigorously investigate all discrimination complaints by miners,” said Main. “We will not hesitate to seek more substantial civil penalties against mine operators who repeatedly discriminate against miners as a deterrent to future such illegal acts.”
Since January 2009, MSHA has received 3,951 hazard condition complaints and 289 discrimination complaints.
MSHA recently revised its publication “A Guide to Miners’ Rights and Responsibilities under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.” As the title suggests, the booklet summarizes the rights guaranteed all miners under the Mine Act as well as the responsibility of all miners to take an active role in matters of mine safety and health. The publication is available at www.msha.gov/S&HINFO/minersrights/minersrights.asp.
MSHA issues safety alert, fatality update
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert and fatality update to the mining industry to draw renewed attention to deaths that have occurred this year in mines throughout the country.
“While headlines continue to focus on the disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine, we cannot lose sight of the fact that other miners are losing their lives at our nation’s mines,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Since the beginning of this year, 28 other miners from all sectors of mining have died in fatal accidents. We must take action to prevent additional fatalities.”
MSHA compiled data on the most common causes of mining deaths in 2010:
• Eight miners were killed when they were struck by moving or falling objects;
• Roof falls and rib rolls crushed seven miners;
• Six miners were killed while working in close proximity to mining or haulage equipment;
• Three miners lost their lives in explosions and fires; and
• One miner was killed when he was caught inside rotating machinery.
Eight of the dead miners were contractors, including one who fell to his death, and one who was killed when his truck went through a berm and over a highwall. One miner drowned in a dredge pond.
The agency has posted the safety alert and fatality update on its Web site. This information not only details the year’s mining deaths, it offers best practices to prevent additional deaths. There are also links to posters that operators can print and install at their mining operations.
MSHA says its inspectors will be “especially mindful of these issues while performing inspections.” The agency says inspectors will talk to miners and mine supervisors in operations throughout the country to discuss these types of fatalities and the ways to prevent them.
In a letter to the mining community, Assistant Secretary Main reminded mine operators that effective safety and health management programs save lives.
“Workplace examinations for hazards — pre-shift and on-shift every shift — can identify and eliminate hazards that kill miners,” Main said. Effective and appropriate training will help ensure that miners know and understand these hazards and learn how to control or eliminate them.
“Fatalities are not an inevitable consequence of mining,” Main added. “We must all work together to send miners home safe and healthy after every shift.”
ARTBA cautions EPA against regulating coal ash as ‘hazardous waste’
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to regulate coal ash as a “hazardous waste” could make concrete more expensive and less durable, thus increasing the costs and environmental footprint of key transportation improvement projects, says Nick Goldstein, vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
“Every element of the transportation construction process, from the suppliers of concrete to the contractors who handle construction materials would be affected by the stigma of a ‘hazardous waste’ label for coal ash,” Goldstein said at an Aug. 30 EPA hearing. “Specifically, because of the increased expense of handling a ‘hazardous waste,’ the producers of coal ash would be resistant to continue providing it to concrete manufacturers.”
The transportation sector’s use of coal ash has been an environmental success story, Goldstein says. “According to EPA’s own data, coal ash accounts for between 15 and 30 percent of the cement in concrete. Further, EPA has noted using coal ash at this level results in annual greenhouse gas reductions in concrete production of between 12.5 and 25 tons and an annual reduction in oil consumption between 26.8 and 53.6 million barrels.”
In 2008 alone, more than 12.5 million tons of coal ash was used in the production of concrete. Goldstein noted a variety of transportation projects, including the following:
• Colorado, where the use of coal ash in 2008 reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 19,500 tons;
• Indiana, where the state department of transportation is able to use an average of 42 percent of the coal ash generated on recycled construction material;
• North Carolina, where the use of coal ash is saving $5 to $10 million annually on transportation projects;
• Texas, where the annual savings from coal ash is estimated at $16 million; and
• Minnesota, where coal ash was used in the concrete for the new I-35 bridge replacement.
Goldstein told EPA officials that on four separate occasions, in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2000, the agency found that coal ash did not warrant regulation as a “hazardous” waste. He said there has been no new scientific information presented since these prior reviews that would warrant EPA’s reaching a different conclusion now.
“We take great pride in the environmental successes the transportation sector has been able to achieve through the recycling of coal ash,” Goldstein concluded. “ARTBA urges the EPA to allow these achievements to continue and even grow by rejecting the option of regulating coal ash as a ‘hazardous waste.’”
California Air Resources Board ‘on apology tour’
William Davis, executive vice president of the Southern California Contractors Association, calls a series of off-highway rule workshops that began Sept. 1 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) “apology tour.” Writing in his association’s newsletter, Davis says, “They probably won’t really say they’re sorry that they caused thousands of construction companies to sell off perfectly good, but older equipment to get into compliance with the off-road rule — or even worse — spend good money to buy new stuff to comply…but they will admit they made a mistake on emissions.”
According to a draft copy of the five workshop presentations, CARB is saying it overestimated excavator activity by 61 percent and dozer activity by 60 percent. It has also concluded the load factors used in its emission estimates should be reduced by 33 percent. In fact, almost everything in its emission estimates — equipment population, activity, load factor, growth, and inventory — is lower than originally forecast, CARB says.
But it’s too early to declare a victory, says Davis. The CARB staff says it needs additional time to “evaluate and explore appropriate regulatory proposals and consider their economic impact on affected stakeholders, determine the effect of any changes on emissions over the next decade and determine how to best protect public health in light of the health impacts of fine particle pollution (PM2.5) currently underway.”
”This means two things,” Davis says. “They won’t be ready for the Nov. 18 (CARB) board meeting, so any changes in the rule will come in December or perhaps next year. Second, they still don’t have the science to justify these rules from a public health standpoint, so they hope to piggyback on new federal … regulations that will roll out soon.”—Marcia Gruver Doyle, Aggregates Manager Editorial Director
Bridgestone off-road tires increases prices 2 to 7 percent
Off Road Tire, U.S. & Canada Tire Sales (BAOR), a division of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC, says it plans to increase list prices by 2 to 7 percent with some in-line adjustments. The price increases affect all mining, construction, and industrial tires marketed by BAOR. The price increases were effective as of Sept. 1.
“We continue to search for new, innovative, and efficient ways to bring the best product for the best price to all dealers,” says Shawn Rasey, president of BAOR, in a written statement. “At this point, we’ve been unable to completely offset rising raw material, energy, and transportation costs with improved efficiencies and, therefore, we find it necessary to increase prices on our off-the-road tires.”