MSHA’s New Health Resources Locator

The Connection Between Agency’s New Tool, Shrimp Treadmills and Cocaine-Addicted Quails.

By Brian Hendrix

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) isn’t a healthcare agency. It doesn’t employ doctors, nurses or healthcare professionals. It doesn’t provide healthcare or medical services. It doesn’t certify or rate healthcare providers.

Information about healthcare providers isn’t hard to find. It is readily available to anyone with a phone or an internet connection. I seriously doubt that anyone has ever thought to check or consult MSHA’s website when they were looking for a doctor to treat a particular ailment or condition.

MSHA’s new Health Resource Locator won’t change that.

According to MSHA, it “developed” the MSHA Health Resource Locator “tool to address [miners’] unique health needs” and to “connect [miners] with essential healthcare services.” Miners “can use [the] Locator to quickly and easily access a diverse range of health information and care resources such as medical support, specialized services and helpful information, based on your selected location and search distance.”

When it was launched in March, Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson said that the “Health Resource Locator tool provides miners with a single accessible place where they can obtain real-time information on healthcare facilities, services and specialists tailored to their unique health needs.”

According to Williamson, “[m]iners face many potential health challenges, whether because of disabling injuries, occupational illnesses like silicosis and black lung disease, or obstacles to finding quality mental health care. MSHA’s Miner Health Matters initiative encourages miners to get regular health screenings and maintain awareness about their health, and this tool makes that easier by placing information directly in miners’ hands.”

With all due respect to the MSHA Assistant Secretary, it doesn’t provide miners with any information that they didn’t already have or have ready access to. Miners have access to the internet. They use Google. We’ll get to that shortly.

How Does It Work?
First, how does it work? Accessing the “tool” via MSHA’s website, you enter your location (city, state or ZIP code) or the name or identification number of a mine. The tool then generates a list of nearby healthcare providers or facilities.

For each, it provides very basic information, including the name of the provider or facility, its address, phone number, hours or operation and the type of services offered. It also includes a mapping feature that displays the location of each healthcare provider or facility on a map.

Users may also filter results based on the type of service, e.g., general health care, emergency services or specialized clinics. That’s it. That’s all it does. It doesn’t provide or generate any information that can’t be easily be found via a simple internet search.

Google, Google Maps and similar services offer comprehensive, up-to-date information about healthcare providers and facilities, including user or patient reviews, operating hours and direct navigation. Turning from the private sector to the public, provides detailed information about healthcare providers, insurance plans and eligibility for government assistance programs.

Yes, THAT “,” the website described as a “trainwreck” and a “technological disaster” when it debuted. is, compared to MSHA’s Health Resource Locator, user-friendly, sophisticated and reliable.

Added Bonus
As an added bonus, MSHA’s Health Resource Locator tool looks (and functions) like it was designed in the early 2000s, not last year. It makes MSHA’s Mine Data Retrieval System look like a model of responsive, intuitive and efficient navigation.

Its user-interface is clunky and outdated. Pages can be slow to load. The search functionality is limited. Unlike sophisticated search engines like Google, the Health Resource Locator does not have advanced filtering options.

The tool is not integrated with other commonly used platforms (e.g., Google Maps or popular healthcare databases), limiting its utility. Users cannot get directions directly from the tool or see reviews and ratings of healthcare providers.

Additionally, it is not optimized for mobile devices, making it difficult to use on smartphones and tablets. This is a significant limitation given that many users (including miners) access the internet primarily through mobile devices.

Unique Health Needs
MSHA claims that the tool addresses miners’ “unique health needs.” I don’t know what MSHA means by that. While I suppose Black Lung is “unique” to coal mining, it’s the only condition that I’d put in that category.

Does the Health Resources Locator provide specialized information relevant to miners’ specific health needs, e.g., occupational health clinics specializing in mining-related conditions? Not really. The information provided by MSHA’s Health Resources Locator isn’t any more specialized (or reliable) than what is readily available to miners via a Google search or through a host of other widely available resources.

I don’t know how much MSHA spent on the development of its Health Resource Locator or what MSHA will spend in the future to maintain and update it. I do know that the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

And that brings me to shrimp treadmills and cocaine-addicted quails. It is not difficult to find examples of wasteful government spending. The National Institute on Drug Abuse once funded a study to determine the effects of cocaine on the sexual behavior of Japanese quails.

Here’s another: a few years ago, the National Science Foundation funded a study that involved placing shrimp on tiny treadmills to observe their endurance and responses to stress in varying water quality conditions.

However, MSHA isn’t or wasn’t known for wasteful spending. I wouldn’t put the Health Resource Locator in the same category as shrimp treadmills or cocaine-addicted quails, but it wasn’t and isn’t a wise use of MSHA’s resources.

Brian Hendrix is a partner at Husch Blackwell LLP. As a member of the Energy & Natural Resources group, he advises clients on environmental, health and safety law, with a focus on litigation, incident investigations, enforcement defense and regulatory compliance counseling. He can be reached at
[email protected].

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