New Silica Dust Regulations Could Be Coming — Here’s What You Need to Know

In Dust Control, EK35®, EnviroKleen®, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. by Jim Silva

A recent Request for Information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration indicates that industry stakeholders may have to prepare for new silica dust regulations.

In order to protect metal and non-metal miners and coal miners who may be exposed regularly to silica dust, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently published a Request for Information (RFI) on updating its silica dust control standards. Released at the end of August, the RFI allows for 45 days of comments from interested industry stakeholders and closed on October 28.

The MSHA RFI comes just several years after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its own silica dust regulations. OSHA’s 2016 amendment cut the permissible exposure from 100 micrograms down to 50, aiming to keep workers who may be exposed to the substance — especially its respirable form — safe on the job.

 For the time being, various stakeholders across the mining space will have the chance to weigh in on MSHA’s RFI and submit comments that may be valuable as the organization looks at a potential regulatory update. While the outcome of this RFI isn’t a foregone conclusion, mining companies would be wise to consider what they can do to keep silica dust to a minimum — industrial dust control products included.

What the RFI Asks for

MSHA’s RFI is specifically asking for input from “industry, labor, and other interested parties” on potential methods to control silica dust and protect miners’ health. These include operational best practices, new protective technologies, technical or educational support, and/or a reduced allowable standard.

The RFI is broken down into four primary requests: information on new or developing technologies and best practices; information on engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment; information on dust control methods; and any other experience, data, or information that MSHA should be aware of while reviewing insights from industry stakeholders and considering new regulations.

What This Means for the Mining Industry

At the moment, MSHA has not instituted any new regulations, nor has it proposed or suggested what its potential rule change might look like. While this most recent RFI is ongoing, it may be wise for mining companies to assess where their current dust control programs stand.

For instance, are you and your team prepared to meet a lower limit and reduced action level if need be? What steps will you need to take if the MHSA announces such reductions? These are critical questions to be asking now so that you don’t face operational disruptions going forward.

How a Proven Dust Control Partner Can Help

As the MSHA RFI continues, it’s incumbent on industry stakeholders to participate in the process so that their insights are heard. However, with the possibility of new silica dust regulations on the horizon — potentially similar to those adopted by OSHA — mining companies should look into advanced dust control products and targeted application strategies like those offered by Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc.

In fact, Midwest has spent more than 40 years perfecting our full complement of industrial dust control solutions and managed services. Our suite of products — such as EK35® and EnviroKleen® — offer synthetic organic dust control with a binder system that captures fines and keeps them locked into the surface. Plus, our emphasis on environmentally friendly technology means that heavy-duty dust control won’t negatively impact the surrounding ecosystem.

Whether you’re looking for a targeted dust control solution or a comprehensive managed service program, the team at Midwest can help. Thanks to decades of leadership in the industry and a results-driven approach to industrial dust control, we can help mining companies keep their workers safe and save money doing it.

Jim is Midwest’s Business Unit Manager for Global Mining. He is experienced in operations management, asset management, and business improvement.

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