MSHA's Regulation Development Process Needs Improvement

HRD-81-80: Published: Apr 27, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) procedures for developing safety and health regulations. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act combined all federal mine safety and health programs under a single statute, which provides for the promulgation of new or revised mandatory safety and health regulations to protect all miners. It also provides specific steps and timeframes for the formal rulemaking process.

Since the effective date of the act, MSHA has completed 20 mine safety and health regulations development projects. Each project usually involved several regulations. Four of the projects were mandated by the act which set time limits for their promulgation. MSHA gave high priority to developing these regulations. Since July 1977, the time taken to formally promulgate regulations has been reduced. Comprehensive data on toxic substances found or used in the mines will not be available for 3 to 4 years. While the Coal Office and the Metal/Nonmetal Office worked jointly to develop a few regulations, usually each office developed regulations only for the mines under its jurisdictions. Each office generally decides which regulations will be developed, sets priorities, and forms drafting committees to develop regulations. Much of the information concerning health hazards is the same regardless of the type of mine, and procedures used to process a regulation after the initial draft is completed are essentially the same. Neither office was developing new or revised health regulations for asbestos, noise, silica, radiation, and welding fumes. When the same or similar hazards are involved in different types of mines, concurrent development of regulations would enable MSHA to use more efficiently the expertise and resources responsible for developing regulations and to ensure equal protection for all miners. There is a need for a focal point and procedure to establish overall MSHA priorities for regulations or to monitor the entire regulation development process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to develop and implement procedures to establish priorities for the development of safety and health regulations for all types of mining operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to develop and implement procedures to establish a monitoring and reporting system to identify all regulations being developed and measure the progress of development.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary to require concurrent development of regulations regarding hazards that are common to more than one type of mining.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health to develop and implement procedures to establish central responsibility for MSHA's regulation development projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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