[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 192 (Thursday, October 5, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 46411-46413]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-21594]


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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Parts 56 and 57

[Docket No. MSHA-2014-0030]
RIN 1219-AB87


Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

ACTION: Final rule; stay of effective date; reinstatement of rules.

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SUMMARY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration is staying the 
effective date of the Agency's January 23, 2017, final rule that 
amended standards for examination of working places in metal and 
nonmetal mines to June 2, 2018. MSHA also is reinstating the provisions 
of the working place examinations standards that were in effect as of 
October 1, 2017. This stay and reinstatement offers additional time for 
MSHA to provide stakeholders training and compliance assistance.

DATES: As of October 5, 2017, 30 CFR 56.18002 and 57.18002 are stayed 
until June 2, 2018, and 30 CFR 56.18002T and 57.18002T are added until 
June 2, 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sheila A. McConnell, Director, Office 
of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, at 
[email protected] (email); 202-693-9440 (voice); or 202-693-
9441 (facsimile).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Stay of Effective Date

    On January 23, 2017, MSHA published a final rule in the Federal 
Register (82 FR 7680) amending the Agency's standards for the 
examination of working places in metal and nonmetal (MNM) mines 
(January 2017 final rule). The final rule was scheduled to become 
effective on May 23, 2017. On May 22, 2017, MSHA published a final rule 
delaying the effective date to October 2, 2017 (82 FR 23139). On 
September 12, 2017, MSHA proposed to further delay the effective date 
of the final rule from October 2, 2017 to March 2, 2018 (82 FR 42765). 
The comment period for the proposed delay of the final rule's effective 
date closed on September 26, 2017.
    In the same issue of the Federal Register, MSHA reopened the 
rulemaking record and proposed to amend the January 2017 final rule 
with regard to the timing of the working place examination and contents 
of the examination record (82 FR 42757). MSHA has scheduled four public 
hearings from October 24, 2017, to November 2, 2017, at various 
locations, to provide the members of the public an opportunity to 
present their views on the limited changes being proposed. The comment 
period for the proposed limited changes closes on November 13, 2017.
    Most commenters on the proposed rule to delay the effective date of 
the final rule supported extending the date beyond October 2, 2017. One 
commenter who supported extending the effective date to March 2, 2018, 
stated that the extension of time would offer additional time for MSHA 
to provide stakeholders training and compliance assistance, would 
further permit MSHA to address issues raised by stakeholders during 
quarterly training calls and stakeholder meetings and compliance 
assistance visits, and would also provide MSHA more time to train its 
inspectors to help ensure consistency in MSHA enforcement. This 
commenter also supported a further delay of the effective date of the 
final rule, should such be required, if the Agency has yet to achieve 
its stated goals.
    Many commenters stated that an extension beyond October 2, 2017 is 
necessary and appropriate and recommended an indefinite suspension of 
the effective date. The commenters maintained that, since substantive 
changes to the January 2017 final rule were proposed at the same time 
as the proposed delay, it is imprudent to establish any effective date 
until an amended final rule is promulgated and the substance of the 
rule is known. In addition, they acknowledged MSHA's stated intent to 
provide compliance assistance to industry and specific training to 
inspectors prior to the effective date. The commenters expressed 
concern that, for any compliance assistance measures to have any 
meaning, it is necessary for the exact terms of the final rule to be 
known before the final rule's effective date. Then, after the period of 
compliance assistance from MSHA, mine operators will be required to 
develop appropriate compliance programs to comply with the final rule. 
Given the uncertainty of the final rule's provisions and the compliance 
assistance efforts to be scheduled, the commenters believed that an 
appropriate effective date cannot be established.
    Other commenters stated that the proposed delay to March 2, 2018, 
was arbitrary and does not increase the likelihood that MSHA will 
complete all of the compliance assistance, outreach, and training tasks 
in that timeframe, or that the MNM industry will be ready to comply on 
the new effective date. They recommended that MSHA establish an 
effective date that is six months after the date on which any changes 
to the final Examinations rule are published in the Federal Register.
    MSHA agrees with commenters who support an extension beyond the 
proposed March 2, 2018 effective date so that the Agency will complete 
its stated goals by the effective date of the final rule. To ensure 
compliance readiness on that date, MSHA is developing compliance 
assistance materials to assist the industry. A stay beyond the proposed 
March 2, 2018, effective date will provide MSHA the time and 
flexibility to make these materials available to stakeholders and post 
them on MSHA's Web site (www.msha.gov); hold informational stakeholder 
meetings at various locations around the country; and focus on 
compliance assistance visits in other areas of the country, as well as 
ensure all issues at these meetings and visits are addressed. 
Additional time will also allow MSHA to train its inspectors to ensure 
consistent enforcement. MSHA will make the Agency's inspector training 
materials available to the mining community to assist miners and mine 
operators in effectively implementing the rule, thus enhancing the 
safety of miners.
    Labor union commenters did not support the proposed delay in the 
effective date, stating that a delay was unnecessary and miners' health 
and safety would be affected by an extension. Labor also stated that 
the

[[Page 46412]]

January 2017 final rule made only minor changes.
    Staying the effective date does not negatively affect miners' 
safety and health; the standards that have been in effect for many 
years are reinstated and MSHA will continue to enforce those standards. 
MSHA will also continue to proactively provide compliance assistance 
and training needed to assure that miners' safety and health are 
protected. Staying the effective date of the January 2017 rule is 
necessary so that the diverse MNM mining industry is provided the 
educational, technical, and compliance assistance to ensure miners' 
safety and health and to comply with final rule requirements. The 
diversity in the MNM mining industry relates not only to commodities 
produced at mines and mills, but also differences for small and large 
mines in complying with the final rule. Based on data reported to MSHA, 
90 percent of over 11,000 MNM mines employ fewer than 20 miners and 
almost all (98 percent) are surface mines.
    Since most MNM mines are small operations, MSHA recognizes that 
they have limited staff, including limited administrative staff, as 
well as limited resources, and many are located in remote areas. These 
small mines may have limited access or no access to the internet at the 
mine site and may rely on stakeholder meetings and other types of MSHA 
assistance to acquire informational materials needed to comply with the 
rule. In MSHA's experience with previous changes to metal and nonmetal 
standards and regulations, outreach to these small mine operators 
requires MSHA to be flexible regarding different approaches that may be 
needed and regarding the time necessary to ensure that all miners and 
mine operators have the tools and the information to comply with the 
rule.
    MSHA has concluded that miners are better protected when operators 
and miners are provided needed informational and instructional 
materials and training and technical assistance regarding the rule's 
requirements. The stayed effective date to June 2, 2018 provides MSHA 
the flexibility the Agency needs to promote compliance, thereby 
increasing protections for miners.
    Further, staying the January 2017 rule without also reinstating the 
provisions that were in effect as of October 1, 2017, would leave 
miners unprotected. Reinstatement without delay is necessary to 
continue historical protection of metal and nonmetal miners through 
workplace examinations.

II. Other Issues

    Some commenters raised concern that the substance of the final rule 
is uncertain because litigation is pending on the January 2017 final 
rule. The commenters suggested that MSHA delay the effective date 
indefinitely until the rule's status is finally resolved. These 
comments are outside the scope of the September 12, 2017, proposed 
rule, which was limited to delaying the rule's effective date to ensure 
compliance readiness.

III. Conclusion

    Having given due consideration to all comments received, MSHA has 
determined that it is appropriate to stay the effective date until June 
2, 2018, and to reinstate the workplace examinations rules that were in 
effect as of October 1, 2017. The stay will address commenters' 
concerns regarding sufficient time for MSHA to fully inform and educate 
the mining community on the rule's requirements. A June 2, 2018, 
effective date provides more time and flexibility for MSHA to complete 
development of compliance assistance materials and make them available 
to stakeholders, hold informational meetings for stakeholders and 
conduct compliance assistance visits at MNM mines throughout the 
country. In addition, the extension will permit more time for MSHA to 
address issues that have been or may be raised during quarterly 
training calls and upcoming stakeholder meetings and compliance 
assistance visits and to train MSHA inspectors to help ensure 
consistency in MSHA enforcement. MSHA has determined that the 
educational, technical, and compliance assistance that will be provided 
to mine operators and miners during the period of the stayed effective 
date will enhance their understanding of the rule's requirements, 
thereby increasing protections for miners.
    For the foregoing reasons, MSHA has concluded that it is 
appropriate to stay the effective date until June 2, 2018.
    Accordingly, the effective date of the final rule published January 
23, 2017 (82 FR 7680), delayed on May 22, 2017 (82 FR 23139), is stayed 
until June 2, 2018. The standards that were in effect as of October 1, 
2017, are reinstated.

List of Subjects in 30 CFR Parts 56 and 57

    Metals, Mine safety and health, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements.

    Dated: October 3, 2017.
Wayne D. Palmer,
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, and under the authority of 
the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, as amended by the Mine 
Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, MSHA is amending 
parts 56 and 57 as follows:

PART 56--SAFETY AND HEALTH STANDARDS--SURFACE METAL AND NONMETAL 
MINES

0
1. The authority citation for part 56 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  30 U.S.C. 811.

Sec.  56.18002   [Stayed]

0
2. Section 56.18002 is stayed until June 2, 2018.

0
3. Section 56.18002T is added until June 2, 2018 to read as follows:


Sec.  56.18002T   Examination of working places.

    (a) A competent person designated by the operator shall examine 
each working place at least once each shift for conditions which may 
adversely affect safety or health. The operator shall promptly initiate 
appropriate action to correct such conditions.
    (b) A record that such examinations were conducted shall be kept by 
the operator for a period of one year, and shall be made available for 
review by the Secretary or his authorized representative.
    (c) In addition, conditions that may present an imminent danger 
which are noted by the person conducting the examination shall be 
brought to the immediate attention of the operator who shall withdraw 
all persons from the area affected (except persons referred to in 
section 104(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977) until 
the danger is abated.

PART 57--SAFETY AND HEALTH STANDARDS--UNDERGROUND METAL AND 
NONMETAL MINES

0
4. The authority citation for part 57 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  30 U.S.C. 811.


Sec.  57.18002   [Stayed]

0
5. Section 57.18002 is stayed until June 2, 2018.


0
6. Section 57.18002T is added until June 2, 2018 to read as follows:

[[Page 46413]]

Sec.  57.18002T   Examination of working places.

    (a) A competent person designated by the operator shall examine 
each working place at least once each shift for conditions which may 
adversely affect safety or health. The operator shall promptly initiate 
appropriate action to correct such conditions.
    (b) A record that such examinations were conducted shall be kept by 
the operator for a period of one year, and shall be made available for 
review by the Secretary or his authorized representative.
    (c) In addition, conditions that may present an imminent danger 
which are noted by the person conducting the examination shall be 
brought to the immediate attention of the operator who shall withdraw 
all persons from the area affected (except persons referred to in 
section 104(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977) until 
the danger is abated.

[FR Doc. 2017-21594 Filed 10-3-17; 4:15 pm]
 BILLING CODE 4520-43-P