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DOL's Strategic Plan - Live Q&A Session with MSHA - Static Page

This chat about the DOL Strategic Plan was held on Thursday, March 25 at 1:45 p.m. EDT with MSHA.

1:11 Moderator: This chat will begin at 1:45 p.m. EDT, but you can send us your questions at any time.

1:48 Asst. Secretary Joe Main: This is Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main. Welcome to the Mine Safety and Health Administration's Web Chat on MSHA's strategic plan - our roadmap for 2010-2016. The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) provides that we take the opportunity to solicit and consider the views and suggestions of our stakeholders who might be affected by or interested in our strategic plan. Today we want to hear from you - your ideas, suggestions, and concerns about our strategic goals, our strategies for achieving our goals, measuring our progress and success, and the outcomes we can expect. Let's begin right away - I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say today.

1:54 Comment From Mylon Stark: As a former regulator, I am sensitive to the need for enforcement of Standards. I also recognize the great opportunity regulators have to conduct outreach to stakeholders during inspections.

1:54 Joe: Thank you for the question. I believe that, as part of an inspection, inspectors need to take the opportunity to educate those at the mine on the violations that are issued so they know the importance of compliance. While at mines, inspectors have the opportunity to speak to miners and mine operators about many issues relating to health and safety. As part of our recent program of Rules to Live By, that is one of the tasks that we have asked inspectors to undertake.

1:55 Comment From Joey: How will the DOL provide a voice for workers

1:55 Joe: MSHA will soon be launching its Voice in the Workplace initiative. It is revising its booklet, Guide to Miners Rights and Responsibilities, to make it more user friendly and make sure miners are aware of their right to alert their employer or MSHA of hazardous conditions, to have a miners representative to accompany inspectors on inspections, to receive mandatory training during working hours, and to exercise these and other rights free from discrimination. We will be getting this message out in a number of innovative ways, and engaging our stakeholders to see how we are doing. We will also be focusing on our investigations of discrimination and hazardous condition complaints to make sure we are investigating them promptly and effectively. We are also improving our Spanish-language resources to inform Spanish speaking miners of their rights. These are just some of our ideas. Please let us know what else we should be doing to protect miners. Thanks for your comment!

1:57 Moderator: To view the overview of MSHA's strategic plan, please go to http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/ and scroll down to the agency overview section.

1:57 Comment From Celeste Monforton, DrPH: The MSHA Asst. Secretary has stated his interest in focusing on health hazards faced by miners. MSHA's 2010 health sampling program for metal/non-metal mines (available online at: http://www.msha.gov/S&HINFO/2010MNMHealthSampling.pdf) states your goal is to "reduce work-related illnesses." The agency's insepction plan, however, only calls for exposure sampling once every 5 years for compounds including chromium IV (a carcinogen), diesel particulate matter (a carcinogen), radiation (a carcinogen) and noise (hearing loss and cardiovascular disease risk.) Can you explain how this plan will achieve your stated goal?

1:57 : That plan is changing. It is a carryover from the past. The strategic planning process will result in modification of the inspection plan to conform with the goals and measures that are adopted. I hope you have had a chance to see the slide show introducing this process that you can access through the MSHA web site. A number of our proposed strategies, goals, and measures reflect our commitment to reducing health threats to miners. We would appreciate your thoughts on whether these are the right targets and measures or whether there are others that should be considered to achieve the important goal of reducing diseases resulting from mining exposures.

1:58 Comment From Guest: With the relatively high number of small mine and contractor fatalities and the strategic plan focusing on reduced fatalities, why is MSHA closing the Small Mines office?

1:58 Joe: MSHA strongly believes assistance to small mines is needed and we are makeing changes to improve that assistance. Personnel from the Small Mines Office and the work they are doing will be integrated throughout the enforcement district and field offices. This will enable us to become more efficient and provide a broader service for small mine operators.

1:59 Comment From Dick Hanneman: Is MSHA evaluating the SAFETY impacts of its clear prioritization of issuing more citations? Many companies report the search for unwarrantable violations and the threats inherent in the "Rules to Live By" are focusing company safety efforts in areas which have not been experiencing recordable injuries.

1:59 Joe: MSHA is evaluating the effects of RTLB. The priority and focus is not to issue more citations, but to eliminate well known hazards from their workplaces. If successful, the numbers of citations should reduce, as well.

1:59 Moderator: Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. Greg Wagner is also taking questions and he answered the question posted at 1:57.

2:02 Comment From Tilcon NY Inc.: has the overall mission of MSHA changed in any way

2:02 Greg: The fundamental mission of MSHA remains to prevent death, disease, and injury from mining and to promote safet and healthful workplaces for the nation's miners. The strategic planning process is our effort to fulfill our mission as effectively and efficiently as possible...to choose the right goals and to hold ourselves accountable for achieving them. We are evaluating what is working well and what could be done better. We will continue to engage with stakeholders, provide education, and develop and enforce more effective regulations. Overall a more effective agency will result.

2:03 Comment From Alan: Will MSHA redirect its enforcement emphasis back to the needed Education and Training Programs

2:03 Joe: Rules to Live by is directly related to our strategic goal of lowering the fatal incidence rate over the next five years. Our goal is to reduce the 5 year rolling average of fatal injuries per 200,000 work hours by 5% per year. By making sure we focus on violations that cause or contribute to the most common causes of fatalities, we hope this program of outreach, education and enforcement will help us achieve our goals. Please find out more about the program at www.msha.gov.

2:06 Comment From Guest: Shouldn't part of MSHA's strategic plan be to reduce the number of citations written over the next 6 years? Wouldn't this be an indicator that safety is improving? An increase would mean that things are getting worse?

2:06 Joe: If our efforts are successful in improving the quality of compliance at mine sites there will be a reduction in violations that would be cited. This is a hopeful outcome of our strategic plan. The implementation of health and safety management programs by mine operations aimed at finding and correcting conditions that may be violations of health and safety standards will help achieve that goal.

2:08 Comment From Mike Wright, USW: On the issue of communication with miners, when British Columbia revised its mining regs some years back, they required mine operators to give a copy of the regs to every current miner, and to every new hire during training. Might be a good idea for the Miners Rights and Responsibilities booklet.

2:08 Greg: Thanks for the suggestion. This is something we hope to learn more about--what impact this strategy has had on workplace safety and health outcomes. It is certainly something that we will consider as we work on improving the miners' rights to be involved in identifying and correcting safety and health hazards without fear of discrimination or reprisal.

2:12 :

2:12 Comment From Tilcon NY Inc.: Will there be any formal directives for activities that your inspectors will be performing?

2:12 Joe: I'm not sure what you are asking, but MSHA inspectors from time to time are assigned activities that are in tune with the Mine Act and reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths. As an example, In the recent Rules to Live By initiative, inspectors were assigned the task to increase the surveillance of conditions that are causing the targeted mining deaths and to provide educational information to miners and mine operators while at the mines in efforts to prevent those mining deaths

2:13 Moderator: The picture is of Assistant Secretary Joe Main looking at the incoming questions projected on a wall.

2:13 Comment From Mike Wright, USW: Thanks for setting this up, Mr. Main. What are MSHA's priorities for the metal-non metal sector?

2:14 Joe: MSHA's priorities for MNM will involve increased focus on preventing disease from exposures to dust, mist, various chemicals and noise. MSHA also has begun identifying all high hazard impoundments on mine properties to determine what actions need to be taken to better protect miners.

2:14 Comment From derek: will msha's strategic plan including training and evaluation of inspectors in order to present a uniform enforcement between different inspectors at a mine?

2:14 Greg: MSHA has a responsibility and commitment to ongoing training of our inspectors in order to ensure the quality, consistency, and effectiveness of their work. We are evaluating the best ways to conduct this kind of training and to evaluate the results. We would appreciate any suggestions you or others may have relevant to this important goal. Suggestions can be sent to AskMSHA@DOL.GOV.

2:14 Comment From Donnie Gatten: Are there plans to bolster MSHA's compliance assistance & EFS efforts with industry?

2:14 Joe: Donnie, MSHA has historically provided a wide range of such assistance to the mining industry. That includes education, training, and outreach through EP&D and their field services, technical support, various programs and information contained on MSHA's website, training and educational programs and material through the federal mine academy, special assistance for start-up mines of all sizes, and other venues. Also, MSHA is providing many tools for operators to educate themselves and miners to comply with the law and improve health and safety through recently launched initiatives to end black lung and the fatality prevention program, "Rules to Live By."

2:15 Comment From Joey: The "voice" that is spoken of in the plan incudes topics that I must teach my employees now about the rights and resposibilities of miners and mine operators, How will restating these topics help the miners in question?

2:15 Joe: Joey, if you are doing that now, let me first say thank you. I am pleased to hear that you are taking a responsible role in making sure your employees understand their rights and obligations. We plan on posting our guide as a draft and look forward to your input on it. Please check back on our website for it and post your comments.

2:19 Comment From Mylon Stark: How can one become an active part of the "repackaging" of MSHA as an agency v. merely submitting comments?

2:19 Greg: This web chat is one of a number of opportunities stakeholders will have to help influence the strategic direction the agency takes moving forward. Some will have the opportunity to engage in dialog during face-to-face meetings. All will be able to review and provide recommendations as the draft plan for MSHA and for the DOL is disseminated. It is always possible to submit recommendations to our website: AskMSHA@DOL.GOV.

2:20 Comment From Tim: Strategically, MSHA seems to be moving away from partnering with the operators, and into an enforcement mode. Increasing written citations, increasing fines, increasing severities, etc. This seems adversarial. Will this be the "strategy" going forward?

2:20 Joe: Tim, as part of MSHA's strategy to improve mine health and safety we intend to engage in extensive stakeholder outreach education and training enhanced enforcement and rulemaking. During my administration we have engaged in initiatives such as the campaign to end black lung and the "Rules to Live By" program aimed at reducing mine deaths that have followed this strategy. We plan at MSHA to do considerable engagments with the stakeholders to bring about improvedments in mine safetyand health.

2:23 Comment From Brian White: In response to a question posed to you earlier in the chat you state that as part of the inspection inspectors need to take the opportunity to educate those at the mine on the violations being issued. Why not provide more opportunities to educate producers and miners on safety and compliance outside of the realm of inspections or issuing citations?

2:23 Greg: We are engaged in a number of efforts to engage in educational interactions outside of the realm of inspections. For example, as part of our fatality prevention initiative "Rules to Live By" we have posted the slide presentation we used to train our own inspectors so that anyone can use it in their own training efforts. We have engaged in webinars sponsored by associations and spoken at meetings organized collaboratively with other stakeholders. We would welcome any suggestions for how to expand and improve these efforts.

2:23 Comment From Chris: How will Rules to Live By affect the 5-year plan

2:23 Joe: Chris, thank you for the question. The Rules to Live By Initiative is designed to reduce the number of mine dealths and the hazards targeted. We fully expect a reduction in the number of those mining dealths over time.

2:24 Comment From Mylon Stark: Thank you. I merely want to throw my hat in the ring as a hands-on, active builder of the bridge between MSHA and mine owners.

2:25 Joe: Mylon, thank you for your comment. It is our intent at MSHA to improve the working relationship between MSHA and the mining industry and your help is appreciated.

2:27 Comment From Linda Raisovich-Parsons: On behalf of the UMWA officers and members we are grateful to see the campaigns launched by Asst. Sec. Main to end Black Lung; reduce fatalities and educated miners on their rights under the Act. The UMWA would like to see the agency continue to explore the use of new technologies such as proximity devices, personal dust monitors and improved communication and tracking systems for use underground. We also would like to see rulemaking on more health issues such as chemical exposures. MSHA should become more aggressive in responding to 105c discrimination complaints and adopt a timeline for the Agency's investigation and determination. In addition, we would like to see the agency monitor and encourage equal enforcement at union vs. non-union mines.

2:27 Greg: Thanks for these suggestions. Many are consistent with both the goals we've drafted for the strategic plan and the strategies we are looking forward to continuing to implement.. We will be launching a number of new initiatives on miners voice in the workplace, health and safety programs, etc. We look forward to your input on these initiatives.

2:27 Comment From Dennis ODell: Part of the Departments goal is to gain trust in the public.While I applaud the direction MSHA is going with increased enforcement and your open door policy to communicate with all parties in the mining community, we still have miners that don't trust the 103g process or the 105c process. We have heard from some miners their names were revealed to the operator after they filed a 103g complaint, and, many times a negative finding comes back on those complaints as well as 105c's when we know the problem existed. What can MSHA do to gain miners trust back that these tools can work and their names wont be revealed.

2:27 Joe: Thanks for your comment Dennis. On names being revealed from investigations, we have to be mindful of the President's Open Govt. mandate while ensuring privacy and making sure that we can protect miners from retaliation. We are looking hard at this problem and look forward to input on our solution, both on this and our larger Miner's Voice/Voice in the Workplace efforts.

2:29 Comment From derek: we have found that in the past couple of years that some of the newly hired inspectors are unfamiliar with proper noise and dust sampling procedure. will the strategic plan address this training issue?

2:29 Joe: Derek, MSHA is currently evaluating all its training with an increased focus on health related issues. Newly hired inspectors receive hands-on training at the Academy in our sampling strategy.

2:29 Comment From Mark Kitchen: Will the conference process with district CLR resume in the future? This is a better away to handle the back log in the citation contest process. The back log could be eleminated for both the Operator and the Commission.

2:30 Joe: I recently testified before Congress on that very issue, and we are currently evaluating how best to conduct the conferencing process. Feel free to pass along any suggestions. Thank you.

2:30 Comment From John: can you give ua a time froam on when you plan to change the dust standards to 1mg

2:30 Greg: The regulatory agenda indicates our commitment to publish a proposed rule to reduce miners' exposure to coal mine dust in the fall of 2010. The details of the rule will be available then.

2:33 Greg: A number of you have asked about how we will evaluate the results of the strategic plan. We will be comparing our performance against the measures that will be identified in the plan. We appreciate all suggestions as to the best measures to use to track progress and success or identify shortcomings. These evaluation measures will be available for all to see on our website.

2:33 Comment From Alan Matta: Is their a time line for promulgation of 30 CFR 74, and can you provide any insight on the status of the ruling making on 30 CFR parts 70, 71 and 90?

2:33 Joe: As noted in the Federal Register, plans are to issue a final rule on Part 74 this spring, and we have announced that we will be proposing a rule on lowering miners' exposure to coal mine dust in September 2010.

2:34 Comment From Dave: I would suggest as a strategic initiative MSHA become more like OSHA in defining regulations. Many MSHA regulations are vague and subject to biased interpretation by inspectors and operators allowing for great uncertainty and abuse. An example would be Fall Protection.

2:34 Joe: Dave, MSHA's regulations are primarily performance based standards and require the inspector to make an evaluation based on the conditions that he observes at the time. Most if not all these standards have been in effect for a number of years.

2:34 Joe: Thank you for taking the time to participate in today's Web chat on MSHA's strategic plan. I look forward to your continued comments as we move forward through the strategic planning process. Your input is important to us as we develop and refine our goals, measurements and outcomes to move us toward healthier and safer mining workplaces in this country. If you would like to comment on the Department of Labor's strategic plan development, please email strategic-plan@dol.gov or askmsha@dol.gov. If your comment(s) is/are related to MSHA, please include MSHA's name in the subject line of your email. A final draft of the plan will be posted on the DOL strategic plan page for review and comment in July 2010. I want to hear from as many voices as possible in putting together MSHA's roadmap for 2010-2016. Thank you for your time today.

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