Patton Boggs Insights - December 2012: Agencies: MSHA Issues New Guarding Guide


MSHA has released a second guidance document dealing with machine guarding in the Metal/Non-Metal (M/NM) sector. At a stakeholders’ meeting in October, the new guide was described as a sequel to one dealing with conveyor belt guarding that was released two years ago. The latest document covers machinery other than conveyor belts and, as was the case with the initial release, it was developed in cooperation with industry and labor groups.

Guarding regulations, specifically, 30 CFR 56.14107(a) dealing with moving machine parts, have been the most oft-cited violations at non-metal surface mines for many years and remains so. However, according to the agency, guarding citations dropped 39 percent after the conveyor belt guarding guidance was released in June 2010. MSHA chief Joe Main sees that trend continuing. “I think we’re going to see some great improvements in compliance going forward,” he said.

The new guide has been posted on MSHA’s website and contains 84 photo-illustrated slides. The format is similar to the 2010 document in that comparisons are presented of compliant vs. non-compliant guards. Machinery covered includes drive and power transmission components; crushers and screens; rotating, packaging and palletizing equipment; power tools and auxiliary equipment.

MSHA’s guarding standards are intended to protect miners from deliberate, purposeful work-related actions such as during inspections, testing, maintenance, lubrication, cleaning, troubleshooting and adjustments. However, they also are aimed at protecting against inadvertent, careless or accidental contact but do not cover deliberate, purposeful, non-work-related actions.

M/NM Administrator Neal Merrifield stated at the meeting that there would be no effort to vacate existing citations for alleged non-compliance which are now deemed compliant in the new guide. However, operators who have been cited for alleged violations that the new guide declares are okay should consider contesting them.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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