WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Mine Safety and Health Administration will extend the public comment period on proposed amendments to existing federal standards that protect the nation’s miners from health hazards related to workplace exposure of respirable crystalline silica, or silica dust.

MSHA will extend the comment period from Aug. 28, 2023 to Sept. 11, 2023, adding 15 days to the process. The extension responds to requests from the mining community and other interested parties for additional time to develop and submit comments on the proposal. The agency received and considered requests to extend and to not further delay the comment period.

“Several interested parties requested that the Department of Labor provide additional time to prepare and submit comments. Upon careful consideration, we have decided to extend the comment period for 15 days and to promptly provide notice of the extension to the mining community,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson. 

The agency published the notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register on July 13, 2023.

The proposed change will ensure miners have at least the same level of protections as workers in other industries. It would require mine operators to maintain miners’ Permissible Exposure Limit to respirable crystalline silica at or below 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full shift exposure, calculated as an 8-hour time weighted average. If a miner’s exposure exceeds the limit, the proposed rule would require operators to take immediate corrective actions to come into compliance.

In addition to reducing the existing exposure limit, the proposal also includes other requirements to protect miners’ health — such as exposure sampling — and medical surveillance at no cost for metal and nonmetal miners. It would also replace existing outdated requirements for respiratory protection with a standard that reflects the latest advances in respiratory protection technologies and practices.

Read the comment period extension notice.

MSHA welcomes public comments submitted online at the federal rulemaking portal. Written comments and any information or materials must be received or postmarked by 12 a.m. EDT on Sept. 11, 2023.

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