[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 71 (Wednesday, April 14, 1999)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 18528-18531]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-8895]


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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Part 46

RIN 1219-AB17


Training and Retraining of Miners Engaged in Shell Dredging or 
Employed at Sand, Gravel, Surface Stone, Surface Clay, Colloidal 
Phosphate, or Surface Limestone Mines

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Labor.

ACTION: Proposed rule, notice of public hearings.

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SUMMARY: We (MSHA) are announcing public hearings on our proposed rule 
on the training and retraining of miners engaged in shall dredging or 
employed at sand, gravel, surface stone, surface clay, colloidal 
phosphate, or surface limestone mines. The proposed rule appears 
elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register.

DATES: See Supplementary Information section for hearing dates. The 
record will remain open after the hearings until June 16, 1999.

ADDRESSES: See Supplementary Information for hearing locations.
    Send requests to make oral presentations--

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    (1) By telephone to MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations, and 
Variances at 703-235-1910;
    (2) By mail to MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations, and 
Variances, 4015 Wilson Boulevard, Room 631, Arlington, VA 22203-1984;
    (3) By facsimile to MSHA, Office of Standards, Regulations, and 
Variances at 703-235-5551; or
    (4) By electronic mail to [email protected].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol J. Jones, Acting Director, 
Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, 4015 Wilson 
Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203-1984. She can be reached at 
[email protected] (Internet E-mail); 703-235-1910 (Voice); or 703-235-
5551 (Fax).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We published a proposed rule elsewhere in 
this issue of the Federal Register addressing training and retraining 
of miners of mines where Congress has prohibited us from expending 
funds to enforce training requirements since fiscal year 1980. The 
proposed rule would implement the training requirements of Sec. 115 of 
the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) and provide 
for effective miner training at the affected mines.

I. Hearing Dates and Locations

    We will conduct four public hearings to receive comments from 
interested parties on the proposed rule. All four hearings are 
scheduled to run from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but will continue into 
the evening if necessary to accommodate as many participants as is 
reasonably possible. We will hold the hearings on the following dates 
at the following locations:
    1. May 18, 1999, Holiday Inn & Suites, 5905 Kirkman Road, Orlando, 
Florida 32819, Tel. No. (407) 351-3333.
    2. May 20, 1999, Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J Street, 
Sacramento, California 95814, Tel. No. (916) 264-5291.
    3. May 25, 1999, Marriott Pittsburgh Airport, 100 Aten Road, 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15108, Tel. No. (412) 788-8800.
    4. May 27, 1999, Department of Labor, Frances Perkins Building, 
Auditorium, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210, Tel. 
No. (202) 219-7816.

II. Issues

    Speakers may raise or address any issues relevant to the 
rulemaking. However, we are specifically interested in comments on 
certain issues. A short discussion of these issues follows.

Definition of ``Miner''

    We are interested in whether the proposed definition of ``miner'' 
is appropriate. Workers who fit the definition of ``miner'' under the 
proposal would be required to receive comprehensive training, including 
new miner training or newly-hired experienced miner training, as 
appropriate. Persons who fall outside this definition would be required 
to receive site-specific hazard training.
    Under the proposal, a person engaged in mining operations integral 
to extraction or production would be considered a ``miner.'' We intend 
that the definition of ``miner'' include those workers whose activities 
are related to the day-to-day process of extraction or production.
    We are particularly interested in recommendations for final rule 
language that would help to clarify the scope and application of this 
definition. Specifically, we would like comments on whether the final 
rule's definition of ``miner'' should include persons whose exposure to 
mine hazards is frequent or regular, regardless of whether they are 
engaged in extraction or production, or who are employed by the 
production-operator, similar to the approach taken in our training 
regulations in part 48. Another possible approach would be to 
characterize a person's activities more specifically in terms of how 
integral or essential they are to extraction or production at the time.

Plan Approval Process

    The proposal would require each operator to develop and implement a 
written training plan that includes programs for training new miners 
and newly-hired experienced miners, training miners for new tasks, 
annual refresher training, and hazard training. Plans that include the 
minimum information specified in the proposal would be considered 
approved and would not be required to be submitted to us for formal 
review, unless the operator, a miner or a miners' representative 
request it. Miners and their representatives would also be given the 
opportunity to comment on the plan before it is implemented.
    The approach taken in the proposal for plan approval recognizes 
that,while our review of written training plans could provide an 
initial check on the quality of the program, such review could not 
ensure that the program is successful in its implementation. Rather 
than expending our resources on the review and approval of training 
plans at all of the mines affected by this rule, we would instead 
direct those resources toward verification of the effectiveness of 
training plans in their execution, and in assisting operators in 
developing and providing quality training to their employees. 
Similarly, operator sand training providers would be able to focus on 
the development and administration of training plans rather than on 
traditional procedures to gain our approval.
    We are interested in comments on whether the proposed approach is 
appropriate, and whether we should require information in addition to 
what is required in the proposal before we consider a plan approved, or 
whether we should require less information. We are also interested in 
whether any commenters believe a traditional plan approval process, 
similar to the process in part 48, is needed to ensure that training 
plans meet minimum standards of quality, and why this may be true.

New Miner Training

    Under the proposal, no minimum number of hours of training is 
required for a new miner before he or she begins work under the close 
supervision of an experienced miner. Instead, the proposal requires 
instruction in four subject areas before the miner can assume work 
duties. By not requiring a minimum number of hours of initial training 
for new miners, the proposal would provide flexibility to tailor 
training plans to focus on the unique needs of the mine and workforce 
and to provide the most effective and relevant training for the new 
miners. At the same time, because specific subject areas would be 
covered before new miners being work, the miners would receive training 
on relevant topics to ensure that they are familiar with the operations 
and environment at the mine,their job duties, and the hazards they may 
encounter at the mine site.
    We are interested in whether commenters agree with this approach, 
or whether the final rule should establish a minimum number of hours of 
training that new miners must receive before beginning work. One 
possible approach would be to specify a minimum number of hours of 
initial training that must be provided to miners based on mine size or 
complexity of operation. For example, a large operation may be required 
to provide eight hours of training, swhile a very small operation would 
be required to provide one hour of training. We are interested in 
comments on this alternative, particularly on the criteria that might 
be used in determining how much initial new miner training must be 
given, such as employment, type of operation, type and amount of

[[Page 18530]]

equipment, etc. Commenters who believe that a minimum number of hours 
of training should be required should also specify what the minimum 
number of hours should be.

New Task Training

    This proposed rule would require miners to be trained for new tasks 
and for regularly assignee tasks that have changed. The new task 
training requirements in the proposal are very performance-oriented, 
and do not include detailed specifications for this training. However, 
we are interested in comments on whether the final rule should include 
more detail and guidance on the elements of an effective new task 
training program, and what areas should be addressed. We are also 
interested in comments on whether new task training requirements under 
the final rule should be modeled after the requirements in part 48, as 
recommended by some comments at the public meetings.

Training Instructors

    The proposal would not require a formal program for the approval or 
certification of instructors,or establish rigid minimum qualifications 
for instructors. Instead, training must be provided by a ``competent 
person,'' which is defined as a person designated by the operator who 
has the ability, training, knowledge, or experience to provide training 
to miners on a particular subject. Under this definition, the competent 
person must also be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.
    We are interested in comments on the approach taken in the proposal 
for instructors, particularly on the fact that the proposal would not 
require a formal instructor approval or certification program. We are 
also interested in commenters' views on whether the final rule should 
require some minimum amount of formal training for instructors, 
designed to ensure that the instructor has the communication skills 
needed to provide effective training.

Annual Refresher Training

    Under the proposal, refresher training must include, at a minimum, 
instruction on changes at the mine that could adversely affect the 
miner's health or safety. The proposal includes a list of suggested 
topics that refresher training could cover, but these topics are not 
mandatory. We are interested in whether the final rule should include 
more detailed requirements or guidance for refresher training programs. 
We are also interested in whether there are any other subjects that 
commenters believe should be required as part of annual refresher 
training at all mines, or whether the final rule should remain at 
performance-oriented as the proposal.

Effective Date and Compliance Deadlines

    We are interested in comments on how much time should be allowed 
for the mining community to come into compliance with the final rule. 
Several speakers at the public meetings stated that one year after the 
date of publication of the final rule would provide a sufficient period 
of time for affected operations to come into compliance. Several other 
speakers indicated that six months past the publication date would be 
adequate.
    One possible approach would be phased-in compliance deadlines, 
where some of the rule's requirements would go into effect at different 
stages. For example, the requirement that you develop and implement a 
training plan might become effective six months after the final rule is 
published, while the requirements for the various types of miner 
training would take effect one year after publication.
    We are seeking comments on whether phased-in deadlines would be 
useful in facilitating compliance, and what period of time will be 
needed for full compliance. We understand that there will be a very 
large number of operations coming into compliance simultaneously and 
wish to allow a reasonable amount of time for the transition.

Costs and Benefits of the Proposed Rule

    We are interested in comments on all elements (including 
methodology, assumptions, and data) of our analysis of the costs and 
benefits of compliance with the proposed rule.
    In terms of compliance costs, we specifically request comments on 
the following issues: (1) The non-compliance estimates used in our 
preliminary Regulatory Economic Analysis for the proposed rule and 
whether partial compliance with existing part 48 training requirements 
would be a more realistic and useful assumption; (2) whether new mines 
are predominantly opened by current mine owners (who would presumably 
be able to adopt an approved training plan) and, more generally, 
whether the cost assumptions for existing mines to develop a training 
plan are equally applicable to new mines; (3) the assumptions 
concerning short safety meetings used to derive the estimate of exempt 
mine operator savings attributable to the proposed rule; and (4) the 
cost assumptions concerning hazard training, including, particularly, 
the number of persons requiring hazard training.
    In terms of safety and health benefits, we request comments on (1) 
our estimates of the number of fatalities likely to be prevented by 
compliance with the proposed rule; (2) the effect of increased 
production levels on the number of fatalities and the fatality rate; 
and (3) what factors, other than training, might make exempt mines more 
hazardous than nonexempt mines.
    We are also interested in comments related to potential economic 
benefits you might derive from improved miner safety and health 
resulting from compliance with the rule. For example, during the public 
meetings, several speakers stated that their companies were able to 
reduce workers' compensation insurance costs significantly by 
instituting an effective safety and health training program. We are 
specifically interested in comments concerning how compliance with 
proposed part 46 might affect workers' compensation costs at your 
operations. Other economic benefits from improved miner health and 
safety we request your comments on include, but are not limited to, an 
increase in productivity; a reduction in property loss and down time 
associated with accidents; and a reduction in employee turnover.

III. Hearing Procedures

    We will conduct the hearings in an informal manner with a panel of 
MSHA officials. Although formal rules of evidence or cross examination 
do not apply, the chair may exercise discretion to ensure the orderly 
progress of the hearings and may exclude irrelevant or unduly 
repetitious material and questions.
    We will begin each session with an opening statement and will then 
give members of the public an opportunity to make oral presentations. 
The hearing panel may ask questions of speakers. Verbatim transcripts 
of the proceedings will be prepared and made a part of the rulemaking 
record. Copies of the hearing transcripts will be made available for 
public review, and will also be posted on our Internet Home Page at 
http://www.msha.gov.
    We will also accept written comments and other appropriate 
information from any interested party, including those who do not make 
oral presentations. All comments and information submitted will be 
considered by us in the development of the final rule and included as 
part of the rulemaking record. To allow for the submission of 
posthearing comments, the record will remain open until June 16, 1999.


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    Dated: April 6, 1999.
Marvin W. Nichols, Jr.,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 99-8895 Filed 4-8-99; 9:52 am]
BILLING CODE 4510-43-U