September 9, 2013 – NSSGA is getting set to drill MSHA. The association’s Executive Committee has approved taking legal action against an appeal by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration of an administrative law judge’s decision to overturn an enforcement citation the agency issued in North Carolina in 2012.
NSSGA will file an amicus brief in the case, which was reviewed by the association’s Safety and Health Committee and Council of Counsel. Specifically, the case concerns the alleged violation of 30 CFR § 56.7012, which states that, "While in operation, drills shall be attended at all times." An MSHA inspector charged that, because a driller operator was not standing within arm’s length of the drill, he was in violation of the standard. While Drilling & Blasting Systems successfully contested the citation before an ALJ, the Secretary of Labor decided to appeal the case before the Review Commission. NSSGA is concerned by the MSHA appeal because it appears that the inspector had no basis for issuing a citation in the matter. It is common practice for the driller operator to stand a good distance from the driller, in part to make sure that the ground is stable. In fact, several operators have commented that – if this MSHA assertion were to prevail – drilling companies would be required to increase the number of individuals needed on a mine site while drilling is occurring from one to two workers.