Center for Asbestos Safety

Mine Safety and Health Administration

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is a federal agency dedicated to enforcing safety and health standards at all United States mining and mineral processing operations. A sub-branch of the Department of Labor, MSHA largely oversees compliance of two pertinent government acts – the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (Mine Act) and the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act.

The mission statement of the MSHA states that the goals of the agency are to:

History of the MSHA

The MSHA was preceded by two important mining safety agencies. The Bureau of Mines was established in 1910 under the Department of the Interior with the initial goal of conducting research to improve safety in the coal mining industry. In 1941, their role was expanded to authorize federal inspections of coal mines.

As the role of the Bureau of Mines expanded, Congress deemed it necessary to formulate a new administrative agency to assist in enforcement. The Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) was established in 1973. Under the new structure, MESA enforced all safety and health regulations associated with U.S. mines, while the Bureau of Mines focused on mineral resource development.

In 1977, Congress passed the Mine Act. The new legislation called for the enforcement agency to be moved to the Department of Labor. This new agency was named the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The MSHA functioned concurrently with the Bureau of Mines until 1995, when the Bureau was dissolved.

The Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977

The Mine Safety and Health Act serves as the principle document for MSHA enforcement. The document was originally enacted on November 9, 1977 and served to strengthen legislation previously enacted under the Coal Act of 1979. Specifically, the Mine Act called for consolidation of uniform health and safety regulations across the entire mining industry (as opposed to just coal mines).

The Mine Act also significantly bolstered the rights of U.S. miners. Under the Act, miner training is now mandatory, as are mine rescue teams for al underground mines.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006

In an attempt to modernize and further improve the provisions of the Mine Act, Congress passed the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) on June 15, 2006. As the name implies, the new legislation pertains largely to new emergency response regulations. This includes the requirement of each mining company to create an emergency response plan unique to each mine they own and operate. These plans would require review and re-certification every six months.

The MINER Act mandated that two rescue teams be within a 1-hour distance from the mine Stricter penalties for violations relating the health and safety regulations were also created by the MINER Act.

MSHA Chief Responsibilities

Enforcement of the laws and regulations mandated by the Mine Act and MINER Act is largely done through MSHA inspections. The MSHA is required to inspect all underground mines four times a year and surface mines two times a year. Such requirements amounted to about 20,000 mandatory mine inspections in the 2000 fiscal year. If a mine fails to meet all regulations, then the MSHA administers citations, which result in fines and other penalties. Some of the other key responsibilities of the MSHA include:

Success of the MSHA

The formation of the MSHA has been attributed to a steady decline in yearly mining accidents and fatalities. From the initial year of the agency's formation to 2007, miner fatalities decreased from 242 miners to 67 miners. During the same time frame, total mining injuries decreased from approximately 41,000 to 11,800.

Furthermore, the total number of documented mine disasters decreased from 44 between 1951 and 1975 to 18 between 1976 and 2007.

On the web: Mine Safety and Health Administration

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