CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Action on key federal mine safety and health rules is lagging, including a rule aimed at lowering exposure to coal dust that causes deadly black lung disease.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration was expected to issue the final rule in June, but now it won’t be acted on until September.
The Charleston Gazette reports officials did not state a reason for the delay.
Researchers are urging action on the rule’s enactment because of resurgence in black lung disease. It is being seen among younger Appalachia miners who have worked under current dust limits that were intended to protect them from the disease.
Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust. Between 1996 and 2005, nearly 10,000 coal miners nationwide died of black lung, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The second-most recorded black lung deaths occurred in West Virginia, with more than 1,800 during that period.
In October 2010, MSHA proposed new rules to reduce the occurrence of black lung. The MSHA proposal would reduce the legal limit for dust in underground mines from 2 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air to 1 milligram of dust per cubic meter of air.
Industry officials argue that recent increases in black lung rates are a regional problem and don’t require a new nationwide rule.
The latest MSHA regulatory agenda also indicates that the agency is delaying a final rule to require underground mine operators to equip continuous-mining machines with devices meant to protect miners from being run over or crushed by those machines.
That rule was to be finalized by May but has been delayed until August, the regulatory agenda says.