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MSHA Expands Safety Training Standards to Include Shaft and Slope Construction Workers

New York, Jan 18, 2006

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine and Safety Health Administration (MSHA) recently released a final rule expanding safety and health training requirements for miners to include shaft and slope construction workers. In a December 30, 2005, Federal Register notice, MSHA issued revisions to a federal code that had specifically excluded the group from training requirements.

The announcement came just prior to the January 2, 2006, tragedy at the Sago mine in West Virginia that resulted in the death of twelve miners. The accident underscored the need for regular review of mining safety and health regulations.

In direct response to a January 2003 shaft accident at the McElroy mine in West Virginia that resulted in three deaths, MSHA began a review of mining accident and fatality rates. Analysis of more than ten years of data revealed that, regardless of experience level, shaft and slope construction workers had a higher injury rate than other mine workers. On the basis of these findings, MSHA determined the need for safety and health instruction for the shaft and slope construction sector, and proposed removing the training exclusion. Public hearings addressing the revision to the final rule began in August 2004 and included comments from shaft and slope construction professionals.

The training regulations will become mandatory on June 28, 2006, when shaft and slope construction operators will be required to train their miners according to an MSHA approved training plan. New shaft and slope construction workers will be required to receive 40 hours of training; annual refresher training for experienced miners will also become compulsory. Instruction will address safety and health topics ranging from first aid and self-rescue measures to hazard recognition and emergency procedures.

The high-profile media coverage and public response to the Sago tragedy has landed intense scrutiny on the agency. “The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will begin an in-depth investigation of the [Sago mine] accident,” said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, on January 4. “This starts with the appointment of a separate MSHA investigative team that will evaluate all aspects of the accident and response, including compliance with all federal health and safety standards. As always, the purpose of MSHA's investigation will be to improve mine health and safety and prevent such tragedies in the future."

For more information about MSHA activities, visit

Click here to view the statistics published in the Federal Register notice.

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