Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Steelworkers React to Revised MSHA Diesel Particulate Rules

After holding an invitiation-only telephone press conference on Friday to announce the changes (see blog entry on June 4), MSHA on Monday published the latest revisions to the metal/nonmetal diesel particulate rule in the Federal Register and posted them on the Web for all to see:

http://www.msha.gov/REGS/FEDREG/FINAL/2005finl/05-10681.asp

The agency's summary:

"In this final rule, MSHA changes the interim concentration limit measured by total carbon (TC) to a comparable permissible exposure limit (PEL) measured by elemental carbon (EC), which renders a more accurate DPM exposure measurement. Also, this final rule increases flexibility of compliance for mine operators by requiring MSHA's longstanding hierarchy of controls for its other exposure-based health standards at M/NM mines, but retains the prohibition on rotation of miners for compliance. Furthermore, this final rule: Requires MSHA to consider economic as well as technological feasibility in determining if operators qualify for an extension of time in which to meet the final DPM limit; deletes the requirement for a control plan; and makes conforming changes to existing provisions concerning compliance determinations, environmental monitoring and recordkeeping."

The United Steelworkers were highly critical:

"A key part of the revision makes the union especially angry, where the new standard expands situations under which mine operators are allowed to use respirators, instead of engineering controls. But MSHA did not require operators to test workers for their ability to use a respirator safely, although such testing is required by OSHA health standards, and is recommended by every major industrial hygiene and occupational medical organization and by the National institute for Occupational Safety and Health," the Steelworkers said in a news release.

The full USWA news release is at:

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/usnw/20050607/pl_usnw/united_steelworkers_union_angered_by_administration_s_weakening_of_mine_safety_standard_for_diesel_fumes302_xml

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