A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Energy Report

Biden Admin Finalizes Silica Rule Update

By Dan Radmacher

On April 16, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administrations issued its final rule updating silica exposure standards for miners. Silica exposure is a leading cause of a resurgence in black lung disease among miners, especially coal miners.

Silica dust is released when miners cut through sandstone to seams of coal. Remaining coal seams are thinner now that thicker seams have been mined out, requiring miners to go through more layers of rock to get to smaller seams of coal.

The new rule cuts the amount of silica dust a miner can be exposed to during an eight-hour shift by half, from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50, granting miners the same silica exposure limit as workers in all other industries.

Miners and their advocates, while pleased with the stricter exposure standard, expressed concerns about enforcement measures in the rule — including the absence of mandatory fines for coal operators who violate exposure limits, the rule’s reliance on industry-conducted inspections and sampling, and allowing coal companies to require miners to work in areas where excessive silica levels are present so long as the company provides respirators, which miners have long criticized as impractical and ineffective.

“Without strong enforcement mechanisms, and without any prohibition against miners being forced to work in excessive dust, I’m not sure that this will actually reduce levels of black lung,” says Willie Dodson, Central Appalachian field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper.

Like this content?   Subscribe to The Voice email digests

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

View this issue
2024 — Spring

2024 — Spring

Subscribe to The Voice email updates

Facebook Twitter Flickr Instagram Youtube

The Appalachian Voice is a publication of Appalachian Voices
589 West King Street, Boone, N.C.
© 2021 Appalachian Voices