Mining is an incredibly dangerous industry, with 50 to 60 miners dying on the job every year. And while employers cannot eliminate every hazard associated with digging underground, they are responsible for taking all reasonable precautions to protect their workers from harm. The question is: who has regulatory authority to say what an employer’s responsibilities are?
This comes down to a question of MSHA vs OSHA. Here’s what you need to know about the gap between the two.
What is MSHA?
The Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, is an agency under the Department of Labor that works to prevent illness, injury, and death by promoting safe work practices for U.S. miners.
Like OSHA, the agency’s regulatory authority is derived from a specific law, which the agency in turn enforces. MSHA carries out provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. It also administers the Mine Improvement and Emergency Response Act of 2006, which further expanded requirements and sanctions for mines.
What is OSHA?
If you’re a safety professional outside the mining industry, OSHA is a regulator you’re more familiar with. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is another regulatory agency under the authority of the Department of Labor. OSHA was brought into existence in 1970 with the Occupational Safety and Health Act to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for working adults across the country.
MSHA vs OSHA: Who Has Authority?
After the creation of MSHA in 1977, OSHA and MSHA entered an interagency agreement to delineate authority between them.
OSHA has much broader authority than MSHA. While MSHA is responsible solely for the mining industry, OSHA has jurisdiction over most private sector employers and employees as well as some public sector employees. The question, then, is who has the final word on regulation.
The 1979 interagency agreement between OSHA and MSHA states that the OSH Act grants OSHA regulatory authority over working conditions of all private sector employees unless other federal agencies have the right to prescribe laws, in which case that agency takes precedent.
However, if the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 does not cover or does not apply to occupational safety and health hazards in mines and mill sites, or areas where the Act does have laws but MSHA has no standards applicable to working conditions on a specific site, then OSHA regulations will be applied.
Helping the Mining Industry Take Charge of Safety
Ultimately, the question of MSHA vs OSHA is an important one because it’s all about worker safety. And in an industry as dangerous as mining, it’s a question you can’t afford to ignore.
We know the unique challenges facing the mining industry, between training and safety advances and new regulatory responsibilities. Your miners and safety teams have their work cut out for them. That’s why we’re here to make the job a little easier.
We offer safety software for companies that refuse to settle for unsafe work conditions, who know that the backbone of their business is their workers. Ready to change the way you think about safety? If so, we’re ready to help. Click here to get in touch.