[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 153 (Thursday, August 8, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 48591-48593]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19028]



[[Page 48591]]

Vol. 78

Thursday,

No. 153

August 8, 2013

Part III





Department of Labor





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 Mine Safety and Health Administration





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30 CFR Parts 7 and 75





 Refuge Alternatives for Underground Coal Mines; Proposed Rules

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 153 / Thursday, August 8, 2013 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Part 75

RIN 1219-AB84


Refuge Alternatives for Underground Coal Mines

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

ACTION: Limited reopening of the record.

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SUMMARY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is reopening 
the rulemaking record for MSHA's existing rule on Refuge Alternatives 
for the limited purpose of obtaining comments on the frequency for 
motor task (also known as ``hands-on'' training), decision-making, and 
expectations training for miners to deploy and use refuge alternatives 
in underground coal mines. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District 
of Columbia Circuit remanded a training provision in the Refuge 
Alternatives rule, directing MSHA to explain the basis for requiring 
motor task (hands-on), decision-making, and expectations training 
annually rather than quarterly or to reopen the record and allow public 
comment. MSHA will review the comments to determine an appropriate 
course of action for the Agency in response to comments. MSHA will 
publish its response in the Federal Register addressing the public 
comments and either explaining the reason that it is leaving the 
existing rule unchanged or modifying the rule as the result of the 
public comment process.

DATES: Comments must be received by midnight Eastern Daylight Saving 
Time on October 7, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Comments and informational material may be sent to MSHA by 
any of the following methods. Clearly identify all submissions in the 
subject line of the message with ``RIN 1219-AB84''.
     Federal E-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments.
     Facsimile: 202-693-9441.
     Mail or Hand Delivery: MSHA, Office of Standards, 
Regulations, and Variances, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, 
Arlington, Virginia 22209-3939. For hand delivery, sign in at the 
receptionist's desk on the 21st floor.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: George F. Triebsch, Director, Office 
of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, at 
triebsch.george@dol.gov (email); 202-693-9440 (voice); or 202-693-9441 
(facsimile). These are not toll-free numbers.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Concurrent Request for Information (RFI)

    Elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register, MSHA is publishing 
a Request for Information (RFI) asking for data, comments, and industry 
experience relevant to miners' escape and refuge during an underground 
coal mine emergency. Responses to the RFI will assist the Agency in 
determining if changes to existing practices and regulations would 
improve the overall strategy for miners' escape and survivability.

Availability of Information

    MSHA will post all comments and information on the Internet without 
change, including any personal information provided. Access comments 
and information electronically at http://www.regulations.gov or on 
MSHA's Web site at http://www.msha.gov/currentcomments.asp. Review 
comments in person at the MSHA Office of Standards, Regulations, and 
Variances, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, Arlington, Virginia. Sign 
in at the receptionist's desk on the 21st floor.
    To subscribe to receive email notification when MSHA publishes 
rulemaking documents in the Federal Register, go to http://www.msha.gov/subscriptions/subscribe.aspx.

I. Statutory and Regulatory History

    The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER 
Act) amended the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act). 
Section 13 of the MINER Act directed the National Institute for 
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct research and tests 
concerning the use of refuge chambers in underground coal mines, and to 
report the results to Congress and the Secretary of Labor (Secretary). 
The MINER Act directed the Secretary to respond to the NIOSH Report by 
reporting to Congress the actions, if any, that the Secretary intended 
to take based on the NIOSH Report, including proposing regulatory 
changes and the reasons for such actions.
    NIOSH finalized its Research Report on Refuge Alternatives for 
Underground Coal Mines (NIOSH Report) in December 2007. The report drew 
from NIOSH experience, independent research and testing, and a survey 
of existing research related to mine refuge chambers.
    In December 2007, Congress directed the Secretary to propose 
regulations, consistent with the recommendations of the NIOSH Report, 
requiring rescue chambers, or facilities that afford at least the same 
measure of protection, in underground coal mines not later than June 
15, 2008, and to finalize the regulation not later than December 31, 
2008 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, SEC. 112(b)).
    MSHA published a notice of proposed rulemaking on June 16, 2008 (73 
FR 34140) and the final rule on December 31, 2008 (73 FR 80656). The 
final rule established requirements for refuge alternatives in 
underground coal mines.
    On January 13, 2009, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 
petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 
Circuit (Court) to review MSHA's refuge alternatives final rule. The 
Court issued its decision on October 26, 2010, holding that the 
Secretary had not adequately explained the basis for requiring motor 
task (hands-on), decision-making, and expectations training only 
annually, rather than quarterly. The Court, therefore, remanded the 
training provision and ordered MSHA to either ``provide an explanation 
. . . or . . . reopen the record, and afford interested parties an 
opportunity to comment.'' [United Mine Workers v. MSHA, 626 F.3d 84, 
86, and 90-94 (D.C. Cir. 2010)]

II. Response to Court Order; Reopening the Record

    In response to the Court's decision, this notice reopens the record 
and solicits public comment concerning the appropriate frequency for 
motor task (hands-on), decision-making, and expectations training on 
refuge alternatives. MSHA will review the comments to determine what 
actions, if any, the Agency will take in response to comments. MSHA 
will publish its response in the Federal Register addressing the public 
comments and either explaining the reason that the Agency is leaving 
the existing rule unchanged or modifying it as the result of the public 
comment process.
    Motor task (hands-on) training consists of performing necessary 
activities associated with deploying and using a refuge alternative and 
its components. Decision-making training consists of learning when it 
is appropriate to use refuge alternatives. Expectations training 
consists of anticipating and experiencing the conditions that might be 
encountered during use of a refuge alternative (e.g., high heat and 
humidity, confined space).

[[Page 48593]]

    NIOSH's Report recommended that each of these three types of 
training be required quarterly. The existing rule requires these three 
types of training annually and refers to them together as ``annual 
expectations training.'' The existing rule also requires decision-
making training during quarterly training and drills through reviewing 
and discussing scenarios for mine emergency evacuation, and a quarterly 
review of the written procedures for deploying and using the refuge 
alternatives and components that are provided at the mine. Annual motor 
task training, decision-making training, and expectations training, 
together with quarterly mine emergency evacuation training and drills, 
was intended to instill the discipline, confidence, and skills 
necessary for miners to survive a mine emergency.
    Since the refuge alternatives rule became effective on March 2, 
2009, refuge alternatives have been placed in underground coal mines 
across the country. During this time, mine operators, miners, 
manufacturers, MSHA, state governments, NIOSH, and other parties have 
gained experience with training miners under the existing rule. To 
benefit from this experience, MSHA requests public comment on the 
frequency of training for miners to deploy and use refuge alternatives 
including, but not limited to, the following issues:
    1. With what frequency does motor task (hands-on) training need to 
be conducted to permit miners to develop and maintain the skills 
necessary to reliably and effectively deploy and use a refuge 
alternative in an emergency? If you believe that such training on an 
annual basis is insufficient, describe ways, if any, that quarterly 
training could be enhanced to allow miners to develop and maintain the 
necessary motor task skills when provided in conjunction with annual 
training.
    2. With what frequency does expectations training need to be 
conducted to give miners the experience necessary to reduce the level 
of panic and anxiety that otherwise may accompany the deployment and 
use of a refuge alternative in an emergency?
    3. With what frequency does decision-making training need to be 
conducted so that, in an emergency, miners understand that the refuge 
alternative is a last resort when escape from the mine is impossible?
    4. Describe any advantages, disadvantages, and costs that would be 
associated with conducting motor task (hands-on), decision-making, and/
or expectations training more frequently than once per year.
    5. Based on your experience, has the quarterly training on 
procedures for deploying and using the refuge alternative reinforced 
annual motor task (hands-on), decision-making, and expectations 
training? If so, how? If not, why not?
    6. Based on your experience, how long does it take to provide 
quarterly training and annual motor task (hands-on), decision-making, 
and expectations training for the types of refuge alternatives used in 
your mine? What is the cost of each type of training, including 
training materials?
    7. What problems or issues have miners encountered during required 
quarterly or annual training?
    Please provide any other data or information that you think would 
be useful to MSHA as the Agency evaluates the effectiveness of its 
regulations and standards related to training miners to deploy and use 
refuge alternatives in underground coal mines.

List of Subjects in 30 CFR Part 75

    Coal mines, Mine safety and health, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Safety, Training programs, Underground mining.

    Authority: 30 U.S.C. 811.

     Dated: August 2, 2013.
Joseph A. Main,
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 2013-19028 Filed 8-7-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-43-P