You are not allowed to enter a confined space without wearing a gas monitor because of the potential dangers associated with combustible gases, CO2 and/or oxygen deprivation. MSHA is now proposing a new rule that would require workers in certain areas of the mines to wear continuous personal dust monitors in order to help awareness of when and where dangers and health concerns exits.
The rule would, at the same time, lower the dust PEL (permissible exposure limit) to ensure that workers’ health isn’t being affected long-term.
At issue is “black lung disease”, blanket term that encompasses emphysema, silicosis, pneumoconiosis (CWP) and chronic bronchitis, all of which are a result of long-term exposure to coal dust. While significant strides have been made in reducing the number of workers who contract black lung disease, studies are starting to show an increase even in younger workers. Black lung disease is preventable and every effort should be made to eliminate it altogether.
Our need for coal and fossil fuels cannot and should not take priority over workers safety, especially if a few simple changes can make such a huge difference.
The MSHA document is available for download on the DOL website at: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/opa/OPA2010-FR-MSHA.pdf
Be forewarned, however, it’s 539 pages so if you’re going to read it, get comfortable.