Today, September 30, 2019, MSHA published a notice in the Federal Register regarding 30 C.F.R. §56/57.18002, Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines. The notice marks the first official public comment by MSHA since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor a union challenge to MSHA’s 2018 Amendments to the workplace exam rule – which is the version of the rule that went into effect late last year. (See our in depth analysis of the D.C. Court’s ruling from June 11, 2019)
The notice puts into effect the 2017 Final Rule version of the workplace exam standard as of today, September 30th. However, the notice also states that MSHA will recognize a 90-day period for implementation of the 2017 Final Rule requirements. This effectively gives operators until December 29, 2019 to become compliant with the new provisions. During this time period, MSHA will hold (and announce a later date) stakeholder meetings, while also release compliance assistance materials for operators to utilize.
The 2017 Final Rule included two provisions that were slightly modified by the 2018 Amendments, as explained in our June post:
“In reinstating the 2017 Rule, the Court of Appeals put into effect two requirements operators previously did not have to comply with:
- All workplace exams must be done BEFORE miners enter a working area; and
- All adverse conditions observed during a workplace exam must be recorded, even if corrected/abated prior to miners entering the working area [or being exposed to the adverse condition].”
The process of updating the workplace exam rule to this point can be described as tumultuous at best, and there is yet still another challenge to the rule pending – this time the challenge being brought by an operator stakeholder association. Getting to this point in the rule’s implementation has been circuitous, and a timeline of the workplace exam rule’s procedural history explains this best: Continue reading