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MSHA Final Rule on Exposure to Silica

MSHA Final Rule on Exposure to Silica
The final rule lowers the exposure limit of respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full-shift exposure, calculated as an 8-hour time-weighted average.
If a miner’s exposure exceeds the limit, mine operators are required to take immediate corrective actions to come into compliance.


In Central Appalachia, an estimated one in five long-tenured coal miners have black lung disease. That’s one in five who struggle to get through a phone call or play with their grandkids without losing their breath. One in five whose life expectancy is cut down by an average of 12 years. One in five are forced to carry this irreversible disease.
The trends are going in the wrong direction. Doctors are diagnosing and treating more miners with black lung and other respiratory diseases than ever before at younger ages.
This new rule will reduce exposure to toxic silica dust and reduce entirely preventable diseases.
Our final rule brings the permissible exposure limit for miners in line with the limit for workers in other industries. It includes safeguards for miners’ health like engineering controls and monitoring to prevent overexposure. The final rule requires mine operators to provide periodic health exams at absolutely no cost to the miners or their families — modeled after the longstanding program that is currently available to coal miners. And we are strengthening respiratory protection standards for miners against all airborne hazards — not just silica dust.

We estimate that this final rule will save more than a thousand lives and prevent severe illness for thousands more. I know that for the families in this room, especially those who have lost loved ones to illnesses caused by their jobs like silicosis and black lung, this final rule is a long time coming.
We have built MSHA back up — hiring 270 new inspectors after the cuts of the last administration — to keep miners healthy and safe. In addition to our regular inspections across the country, we’re conducting monthly impact inspections in higher-risk mines to identify and eliminate hazards that can cost miners their lives.
We are educating miners and mine operators about how to prevent accidents through proper training and precautionary measures, including our Take Time Save Lives campaign. While any miner death is one too many, this year fatalities are down dramatically, and we continue to double down on what works.
We created a Miner Safety and Health App so every miner can get real-time information right on their phones. We send out targeted safety and health alerts through the app.
And just last month, we launched a new Health Resource Locator Tool that makes it easier for miners to access the health care they need.

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