Small Firm MSHA Dust Citation Alert

      It has been reported to $afepro that several small firms in the Midwest and North Central areas are receiving unsatisfactory Dust surveys from MSHA that are resulting in citations for over-exposure to silica. Sec. 103 (a) of the ACT requires MSHA to make dust surveys to determine exposure to silica "Authorized representatives of the Secretary or the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare shall make frequent inspections and investigations in coal or other mines each year for the purpose of (1) obtaining, utilizing, and disseminating information relating to health and safety conditions, the causes of accidents, and the causes of diseases and physical impairments originating in such mines,". This is done over a 1-5 year period based on the Firm's exposure or prior exposure history. Many firms have believed that they must accept the agency results of the dust monitoring. Historically, MSHA's testing results have been less than accurate in cases. The responsibility for testing for silica exposures and implementing protective controls belongs to the operators! If you are not seeing to the testing yourself, you are stuck with MSHA's findings. The operator's responsibility is found in standard 30 CFR 56.5002,

"Exposure monitoring.

Dust, gas, mist, and fume surveys shall be conducted as frequently as necessary to determine the adequacy of control measures."

     The MSHA Policy Manual, Vol. IV tells what the National Enforcement Policy is relative to the standard and the Operator's responsibility.

"56/57.5002 Dust, Gas, Mist and Fume Surveys by Mine Operators
The standard requires mine operators to conduct dust, gas, mist and fume surveys as frequently as necessary to determine the adequacy of control measures. The purpose is to help assure that the miners are not exposed to harmful concentrations of airborne contaminants. This could include carbon monoxide in underground mines, nitrogen oxides after blasting, welding fumes, silica- containing dust, mercury and any other airborne contaminant, especially where there is a history of overexposures. It does not include noise.

There are many methods used to measure airborne contaminants. The sampling and analytical methods used by the mine operator should be consistent with established scientific principles, such as NIOSH recommended methods and comparable to the 1973 ACGIH TLVs."

        Smaller Companies, which do not have staff trained in Dust Monitoring, must contract with an outside independent Industrial Health firm to do the testing, make arrangements with a competitor who has trained staff and the appropriate equipment, or buy the monitors and have their people trained to do it. The responsibility is the Company's!

        Accepting MSHA's  over-exposure findings will result in a citation and a fine for a few hundred dollars. That is just the tip of the "expense iceberg".It will cost several thousand dollars to institute the health controls required by the inspector to abate the "alleged dust exposure citation".

       Contact your professional Association, your State Mining Agency, or your competitors for firms in your area which can perform the dust surveys for you. You then have information with which to refute the Agency's findings. These surveys can be done at most small sites for under $1000.00.

       Remember, the MSHA inspector is not your Health and Safety Officer! He is a Federal enforcement agent whose job is to cite you!