The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued guidance to the mining industry to clarify that mine operators who meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) updated hazard communication standard will be in compliance with MSHA’s hazard communication standard. The guidance, in a program policy letter, reflects MSHA’s understanding that many mine operators already meet OSHA’s HazCom standard.
OSHA recently published an update to its Hazard Communication Standard, incorporating the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Major changes to OSHA’s HazCom standard include a new system of classifying types and degrees of hazards, changes to labeling requirements and changes to the Safety Data Sheet, formerly called the Material Safety Data Sheet.
Regulations require mine operators to develop, implement and maintain a written HazCom program. Operators must identify chemicals; make a hazard determination; ensure that containers of hazardous chemicals have labels; have and make available a data sheet for each hazardous chemical used or produced at the mine; and instruct miners on the physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the miners’ work area, protective measures and contents of the HazCom program.
While OSHA’s HazCom standard is compatible with MSHA’s, MSHA officials caution that some aspects of OSHA’s hazard classification may not be compatible with other existing MSHA standards, such as storage requirements for hazardous chemicals. Mine operators must comply with all existing MSHA standards concerning hazardous chemicals. Under MSHA’s HazCom standard, operators are required to train miners on the contents of the mine’s HazCom program. Operators must describe in their written HazCom programs the HazCom practices in place at the mine, including practices for hazard determination, labels and safety data sheets. For this reason, if operators choose to incorporate OSHA’s updated HazCom rule, they also must update their written HazCom programs and conduct miner training on the new system.
To read the official program policy letter, visit www.msha.gov/regs/complian/ppls/2013/PPL13-IV-01.pdf.