Taking Steps Towards Safety
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
On Feb. 5, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a new guide on ladder safety designed to provide greater clarity and assistance for complying with MSHA ladder safety standards. Hopefully, the guide will enable operators and regulators to be on the same page in terms of the agency’s expectations.
“As with other compliance initiatives undertaken by the agency in recent years, I expect our ladder safety guide will result in improved compliance, more consistent enforcement, and, ultimately, reduced injuries and deaths of miners,” writes Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main in a letter introducing the guidance. The guide will serve as the basis for a series of inspector training sessions, he says, and “will ensure that MSHA inspectors, miners, and mine operators are all working with the same information.”
Like previous guidance issued for guarding, the topic is covered through images and explanatory text via a PowerPoint presentation. Some of the topics covered include the following:
- Ladder design and installation;
- Ladder construction and maintenance;
- Requirements specific to fixed and portable ladders;
- Underground ladders and travelways; and
- The differentiation between ladder standards and safe access standards.
Unacceptable practices highlighted in the guide include ladders that are too narrow, have missing rungs, are located too high off the ground, or don’t extend the minimum of 3 feet above landings. The agency also points out that a minimum toe clearance of 3 inches is required for fixed ladders.
Suggested best practices include having ladders that are wider at the top for an easier dismount, as well as the use of spring-loaded and gravity-closing gates at the top of ladders in the place of chains because they are self closing.
Mobile equipment operators should take note that fixed mobile equipment ladders are included in MSHA’s fixed ladder category and ensure that damaged ladders are repaired to avoid a violation of 30 CFR §§ 56/57.11003.
For more specifics, review the guidance on MSHA’s home page at www.msha.gov. Be sure to review the notes that accompany the image as they offer pertinent information about what is (and is not) considered acceptable in each image.
3 takeaways from this issue:
1. U.S. cement clinker is expected to decrease by 19 percent, page 11.
2. Approximately 50 percent of the maintenance cost of a dozer comes from the undercarriage, page 13.
3. Simulator training not only saves on equipment wear and tear, but also on fuel costs, page19.