Incomplete initiatives aimed at improving employer reporting of injuries are some of the key management and performance challenges facing OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), according to a new report.
The Department of Labor Office of Inspector General recently released a report that recommended how OSHA and the MSHA could best use their resources to help protect workplace safety and health, particularly in high-risk industries such as construction, forestry, fishing, agriculture, and mining.
“Without reliable data regarding workplace injuries, OSHA and MSHA lack the information needed to effectively focus inspection and compliance efforts on the most hazardous workplaces,” the report states, adding that OSHA is currently encouraging employers to comply with reporting requirements through a combination of enforcement, outreach and compliance assistance efforts.
Another challenge for OSHA is ensuring construction hazards are abated – an industry with a longstanding above-average incident rate, and one that is notoriously difficult to police.
“The agency closed many citations for safety violations because the construction project ended, not because employers corrected the cited hazards. As a result, OSHA received no assurances employers would use improved safety and health practices at subsequent construction sites.”
For the MSHA, the report found a major challenge is determining why cases of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung) are at a 25-year high in Appalachian coal mining states, (see related article). The MSHA said it has made some progress in this area, by increasing the sampling for silica, quartz and diesel particulate emissions. It also has ordered more sampling devices for inspector and testing equipment for its laboratories.
The report suggests several ways the MSHA can further ensure mine operators are complying with the respirable coal dust rule:
- Review the quality of coal mine dust controls in mine ventilation and dust control plans.
- Analyze sampling data quarterly.
- Monitor mine operators’ sampling equipment.
- Re-evaluate the coal dust rule in light of new information.
- Increase testing and enforcement for other airborne contaminants.
Finally, the report states the MSHA must address the “emerging challenge” of powered haulage incidents, which accounted for 8 percent of all injuries and 50 percent of the 28 mining fatalities in 2017.
The report recommends enhanced training, conducting compliance and technical assistance visits, and increasing and sharing its knowledge of available technology. The MSHA said it was working with the mining industry on collision warning/proximity detection systems, that can stop machine motion and/or send a warning signal to the machine operator when it detects a person or object in the machine’s path.