Compliance with proper equipment guarding

Tina Grady Barbaccia

December 4, 2012

The Mine Safety and Health Administration develops a guide to help producers abide by industry rules and protect against guarding-related violations.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) rolled out a new compliance assistance resource on Oct. 4 to address one of the most commonly cited violations in the metal and non-metal mining industry: improperly guarded machinery.

Guarding Machinery at Metal & Non-metal Mines is a sequel to a compliance guide for guarding conveyor belts published in 2010. Guarding-related violations peaked at 10,877 that year and accounted for one of every seven violations cited, according to MSHA.

“I believe the actions we are taking at MSHA and by many in the industry are moving safety and health in in the right direction,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main in remarks to aggregates producers this summer.

Main says the purpose of the new guide, which is designed to improve mine safety, is threefold: to improve the mining industry’s understanding of good guarding principles; ensure the construction, installation, and maintenance of high-quality, effective guards; and improve compliance, inspection, and enforcement consistency.

Guarding-related citations and orders issued through the third quarter of fiscal year 2012 are down 39 percent from 2010 level.

 — Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

According to Parts 56/57.14107 of 30 Code of Federal Regulations, moving machine parts must be guarded to protect individuals from contacting gears; sprockets; chains; drive, head, tail and take-up pulleys; flywheels; couplings; shafts; fan blades; and similar moving parts that can cause injury. Guards are not required when the exposed moving parts are at least 7 feet away from walking or working surfaces, according to MSHA.

Injuries related to equipment guarding typically occur because guards are missing or inadequately sized or positioned. They also may be due to miners handling or dropping heavy, unwieldy, and other poorly designed, constructed, or maintained guards, according to MSHA. The agency gives the example of lacerations or other injuries occurring because of a guard’s construction.

Source: Mine Safety and Health Administration

The new guide gives examples of good guarding practice and compliance information relating to all types of mining equipment, including drive and power transmission components; crushers and screens; rotating, packaging, and palletizing equipment; power tools; and auxiliary equipment.

The conveyor belt guarding guide was well received by the mining industry and has resulted in increased compliance and more consistent enforcement, MSHA says. Guarding-related citations and orders issued through the third quarter of fiscal year 2012 are down 39 percent from 2010 levels, according to MSHA. Both guides have the same format: a photo-illustrated PowerPoint presentation with detailed explanatory notes.

Equipment guarding standards are among the most frequently cited violations in metal/non-metal mines, Main says. The number of citations and orders issued for guarding violations dropped 26 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to MSHA. The percentage of citations and orders for guarding-related violations has decreased significantly between 2006 and 2011, with that trend continuing so far this year.

However, Main says that many issues remain and guard provision, placement, construction, and maintenance require regular attention.

“A recent review shows that overall compliance is improving at mines after receiving impact inspections,” Main said during his July address to aggregates producers. He noted that, since MSHA launched the program in September 2010, violations per inspection hour are down 13 percent after mines received an initial impact inspection; significant and substantial (S&S) violation rates are down 21 percent; 104(d) orders are down 43 percent; and the total lost-time injury rate is down 13 percent, according to MSHA.

“Unfortunately, there are still mines that haven’t gotten the message,” Main pointed out. “The egregious problems found during some of these impact inspections and the extreme measures MSHA had to take to find them — arriving off-shift and commandeering mine phones — validate the administration’s support of focused improvements to the Mine Act that will give MSHA the tools it needs to address chronic violators.”

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