For the last several weeks, MSHA officials have been planning a series of public events to launch a campaign to end black lung disease.  The first event was held this morning in Beckley, WV, and the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward allowed me to feel like I was attending the event by providing a live-feed on Twitter [kenwardjr].   He wrote:

  • First part of MSHA plan is education and outreach to tell industry how bad black lung is, agency chief Joe Main says.   [They already know this, don’t they?]
  • Second part of three-part plan is enhanced enforcement of current dust standards aimed at black lung prevention.  [Hmm…didn’t NIOSH tell us in 1995 that the current exposure limit will NOT prevent black lung?  How can enforcing the current limit be part of the plan to end black lung?]
  • MSHA regulatory plan will come out Monday as part of overall DOL agenda, Joe Main says.  But won’t necessarily include tightening the PEL.   [I hope that “won’t necessarily” means that it will include it, but that he just wasn’t at liberty to say it.]

The Pump Handle will report tomorrow on DOL’s reg agenda, which is supposed to be published in October (and April) each year, when the version for public review becomes available.   Meanwhile, Ken Ward offers us a brief recap of today’s MSHA event.

cross-posted from Coal Tattoo, by Ken Ward, Jr.

Mine safety advocates will have to wait a while longer to find out the real meat of the Obama administration’s plan to end black lung disease.  Mine Safety and Health Administration officials launched their initiative — the latest of many plans to stop this deadly disease — during a press conference and then a workshop here at the Mine Safety Academy outside Beckley.

But MSHA chief Joe Main, the longtime United Mine Workers health and safety director, refused to talk specifics about what changes in actual black lung rules he plans to propose or what the timeline for them would be. Those announcements will come Monday, Main said, when his boss, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, releases the overall Labor Department’s new regulatory agenda.

Still, Main suggested that maybe he wasn’t going to tighten the actual legal limit for coal dust in underground mine after all, describing such a change as only one possible avenue for trying to reduce exposures.  Some sort of rule changes will be one part of MSHA’s three-part plan. But other rule changes — such as requiring continuous dust monitors or taking other steps to better measure the actual dust exposure to working miners — might work just as well, Main said.

The other two parts of the plan are education of the industry and miners and enhanced enforcement of existing rules.