The U.S. Department of Labor said the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will extend the public comment period from August 28 to September 11 on proposed amendments to existing federal standards related to workplace exposure of respirable crystalline silica or silica dust.
“Several interested parties requested that the Department of Labor provide additional time to prepare and submit comments. Upon careful consideration, we have decided to extend the comment period for 15 days and to promptly provide notice of the extension to the mining community,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson.
The proposed change will ensure miners have at least the same level of protections as workers in other industries. It would require mine operators to maintain miners’ Permissible Exposure Limit to respirable crystalline silica at or below 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full shift exposure, calculated as an 8-hour time weighted average. If a miner’s exposure exceeds the limit, the proposed rule would require operators to take immediate corrective actions to come into compliance.
In addition to reducing the existing exposure limit, the proposal also includes other requirements to protect miners’ health – such as exposure sampling – and medical surveillance at no cost for metal and nonmetal miners. It would also replace existing outdated requirements for respiratory protection with a standard that reflects the latest advances in respiratory protection technologies and practices.
The agency published the notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register on July 13, 2023.