Mining, oil and gas

Subcommittee discusses mining safety improvements, gaps

Tim Walberg

Photo: The Education and the Workforce Committee

Washington – Progress on miner safety has been made, but the Mine Safety and Health Administration needs to make further improvements to prevent injuries and fatalities, employers and stakeholders said during an Oct. 21 hearing convened by the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee.

The subcommittee previously has called on MSHA to hold “bad actors” accountable and collaborate with stakeholders to identify safety gaps, chairman Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) said. Stakeholders discussed which industry policies and safety measures have been effective.

Mike Wright, director of health, safety and environment for the United Steelworkers, said MSHA’s efforts, advanced technology, research, and mine operators and unions have helped decrease the death rate in mines by 77 percent. However, further improvement is needed, Wright said, adding that MSHA should maintain strong enforcement, examine the effectiveness of its training and better collaborate with OSHA, among other measures. He urged the passing of the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1926), which aims to improve compliance and prevent incidents.

Speaking on behalf of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, Ed Elliott, director of safety and health with the Rogers Group, said many of MSHA’s regulations are “burdensome,” and its enforcement should center on areas of greatest risk.