Cochrane & Associates, LLC

Lowering Exposure to Respirable Coal Dust in MSHA Final Rule


Source: Cochrane & Associates, LLC

The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) reminds workers and industry of the need to address exposure to respirable hazards.

Lansing, MI -- Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced the release of a final rule to lower miners' exposure to respirable coal mine dust.  The final rule applies to all underground and surface coal mines and continues the agency’s End Black Lung – Act Now! initiative.

According to a MSHA news release, this final rule:

  • Reduces the overall dust standard from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air and cuts in half the standard from 1.0 to 0.5 for certain mine entries and miners with pneumoconiosis;
  • Requires immediate action when dust levels are high instead of allowing days or weeks of miners' exposure to unhealthy dust;
  • Requires more frequent sampling of areas known to have relatively high dust levels, such as those closest to the production area;
  • Changes the method of averaging dust samples, which previously allowed miners on some shifts to be exposed to levels above the standard;
  • Requires sampling for the full shift a miner works to ensure protection for all working hours, rather than stopping measurement after 8 hours, as under the previous requirement;
  • Requires that, for MSHA-collected samples, MSHA will issue a citation for any single, full-shift sample at or exceeding the citation level;
  • Requires dust samples to be taken when mines are operating at 80 percent of production, as opposed to the previous 50 percent requirement, so that samples are more representative of actual working conditions;
  • Requires mine operators to conduct thorough on-shift examinations of dust controls and verify controls with written certification; and
  • Improves medical surveillance of miners.

Prolonged exposure to coal mine dust can cause several lung diseases, collectively known as black lung.  NIOSH estimates that more than 76,000 miners have died since 1968 as the result of the disease, and more than $45 billion in federal compensation benefits have been paid out to coal miners disabled by black lung and their survivors.

“ABIH supports the need to protect all workers exposed to respirable particulates through proper air monitoring and exposure controls,” said Lynn O’Donnell, CIH, Executive Director for the American Board of Industrial Hygiene.  “Certified Industrial Hygienists are trained and experienced in air sampling, engineering controls, work environments and risk analysis to minimize worker exposure to a wide range of particulate matter found in many types of industrial settings.”

To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) program or to locate a CIH to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit, email or call (517) 321-2638.

About the American Board of Industrial Hygiene

Since 1960, ABIH, a not-for-profit corporation, has been the world's largest, premier organization for certifying professionals in the practice of industrial hygiene. ABIH is responsible for ensuring high-quality certification including education, experience, examination, certification maintenance and ethics enforcement.  Currently, more than 6700 people are certified to use the CIH designation.


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