Willa Perlmutter, co-chair of the Stoel Rives mining group, has worked on numerous mine accidents that have involved multiple or single fatalities over the years. For instance, she was a part of the team that looked into the 2007 Crandall Canyon coal mine disaster, which claimed the lives of three rescue workers and six miners in Utah.
Perlmutter states that in most fatality or accident investigations, human error plays a big role. This, she says, may be in the form of someone coming up with a bad idea or cutting corners, adding that sometimes, however, mining conditions worsen.
With regard to safety violation citations, Perlmutter notes that most of the cited issues come from underground coal mines.
Apart from this, she continues, everything else is classified as nonmetal or metal, with Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) ensuring that guarding violations are enforced, especially with conveyor belt rollers. Perlmutter adds that she has observed many housekeeping violation citations as well as electrical ones and believes that some citations may be overwritten with regard to gravity that’s assigned to them.
In addition to this, Perlmutter observes that at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the mining industry adapted to the changes and began implementing safety measures such as providing personnel with PPEs, practicing social distancing on site and planning shifts with less exposure.
However, she continues, regulatory bodies such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) as well as MSHA haven’t included any emergency temporary standards in their Covid-19 guidance. This is despite President Joe Biden issuing statements to OSHA and MSHA to consider issuing emergency temporary standards in response to the pandemic, which they are yet to do.
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hasn’t made any moves despite the March 15, 2021, deadline, which they seem to have disregarded, MSHA posted a COVID-19 guidance on its website.
The non-legally binding guidance contains descriptions as well as recommendations of mandatory health and safety standards and is intended for use by operators and miners in nonmetal, metal and coal mines. The website highlights that the guidance established no new legal obligations and is neither a regulation nor a standard.
Perlmutter maintains that while those organizations are responsible for issuing new safety standards for the natural resources industry and are in part to be blamed for not doing so, the decision to issue or to not issue safety standards has mainly been driven by political considerations as there were political agendas at play.
The lack of enforceable guideline changes by sector regulators has not stopped entities such as First Energy Metals Ltd. (CSE: FE) (OTCQB: FEMFF) from implementing its own stringent rules to keep operations safe from any COVID-related incidents.
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