So, what changes at the mine could adversely affect the miner's health or safety? And how do you as the competent person provide that instruction?

Lucky for you, I’m here to try to answer that question. 

Let’s first look at what MSHA says or doesn’t say.

§46.8   Annual refresher training.

(a) You must provide each miner with no less than 8 hours of annual refresher training, and (b) The refresher training must include instruction on changes at the mine that could adversely affect the miner's health or safety.

In the latest Part 46 Reference Guide, dated February 2017, the Mine Safety and Health restates the regulation as written above with no real explanation of what you should do. This Guide is listed as OT 54, Other Training Material and is available online.

The Reference guide states: The flexibility of the performance-based approach of Part 46 allows production-operators and independent contractors to determine the subjects to be covered in annual refresher training based on the needs of their workforce and their operations.” But in the next sentence they seem to take that flexibility away. “In the regulation, the section on annual refresher training lists recommended subjects that could be included in the training. It is not acceptable to list all these subjects on the training plan and choose different subjects from year-to-year. The training plan needs to accurately represent each subject which you plan to cover during annual refresher training.” 

Not so flexible and there would be many subjects that might be more appropriate to stagger. There actually might be changes in an operation you don’t foresee over the winter season. COVID-19 would be the first and most current example that might fit inside this discussion.

I believe you can’t cover everything you need to know about safety and health in eight hours. MSHA’s plan B would be to ”change the plan each time you want to change the subjects”.

As a reminder, if the training list is modified, the miners' representative, if any, must be provided with a copy of the plan at least 2 weeks before the plan is implemented. If no miners' representative has been designated, you must post a copy of the plan at the mine or provide a copy to each miner at least 2 weeks before the plan is implemented.  More work for you.

Plan C might be to cover the extra information in that undefined area of “instruction on changes at the mine that could adversely affect the miner's health or safety.” It might have been more appropriate and certainly easier to understand if MSHA just told us to do that. I’m not sure how you document what you cover other that say it was a change that could affect a miner’s health or safety.

In Part 46, “Training is also recommended on the hazards associated with the equipment that has accounted for the most fatalities and serious injuries at the mines covered by this rule, including: mobile equipment (haulage and service trucks, front-end loaders and tractors); conveyor systems; cranes; crushers; excavators; and dredges”.

In the Part 46 and Part 48 Reference Guide (OT 56) Other Training Materials, MSHA (page 90 of the Guide, Page 94 of the pdf), shows both “changes at the mine that affect the miner's health or safety” and “Miners will also receive training in the following recommended subjects and for hazards that have accounted for the most fatalities and injuries at the mine, where appropriate.”

I’m guessing that “where appropriate” makes it all flexibility. But I would point out that covering the hazards that have accounted for the most fatal accidents would always be appropriate. 

For the Part 48 mines, MSHA does not ask you specifically to cover “changes at the mine that could adversely affect the miner's health or safety.” The same guidance on Part 48 states: “An effective refresher training program must be adapted to changes in mining conditions, accident history, and other training concerns. Time spent for each course may vary to meet specific needs.” Should a change at a mine that could affect a miner’s safety or health be considered a specific need? 

The Guide lists two more differences that deserve some attention.

1. The required annual refresher training courses listed in Section 48.8

that are not applicable to a particular mine may be omitted from that mine's training plan. A notation of which courses are not applicable should appear in the training plan. 

Does mean if you cover something not applicable it’s Ok? Just omit it from the Training Plan. The same plan MSHA has to approve.

2. An 8-hour minimum is required for the total annual refresher training program. However, the time spent on individual courses may vary from year to year or from one area of the mine to another depending on specific safety or health problems encountered. The mine's accident experience should significantly influence the amount and type of training miners receive throughout the year. 

Does this mean time and type of training can vary from year to year, but subjects listed by MSHA can’t vary and what about those changes that could affect a miner’s health or safety? Apparently, Part 48 mines don’t have changes, but accidents and near miss experiences can change what you cover? And you don’t think I’m confused as well?

Back to the point.

What changes at the mine could adversely affect the miner's health or safety?

And how do you as the competent person provide that instruction? I have a list.

Quarry/Pit Changes

Opening/closing of new section to be mined

Opening/closing of new mine to be mined

Addition/removal of benches

Addition/removal of main haul roads/ramps

Addition/removal of service roads/ramps

Change in restricted areas/berms and barricades

New water hazards

New traffic pattern

Mining Changes

New drilling techniques

New blasting setup/ procedures/security

New setup for crushing, screening, sizing of materials

Equipment & Machinery

New crusher/screen/conveyor system with upgraded features

New wash plant

New scales, change in access to office by customers

Personal Protective Equipment

Addition of PPE to be required

New Hazard Communication information

New Hearing Protection

Company Policy

New procedures for reporting

New procedures for inspection

New Safety program, written polices

MSHA Regulation

New Standards

New Safety Alerts

New Health Alerts

Accident Experience

Increased number of events

Increased severity

I’m sure you can all add to this list and that does open a door or maybe turn on a light. You probably do have things that change from year to year and they probably could affect a miner’s health or safety. 

My recommendation isto conduct the required training (hold a meeting) a meeting. Call it whatever you want. Make a record and fill the information in on the certificate. Keep track of the length of time the meeting took. Sign an attendance form, make it part of the record.

And congrats if you are doing this very thing. I’ve spoken on this many times before and advised you to hold a meeting, take a tour of the quarry, show operators how you want the new equipment inspected or let them show you how they will inspect that new equipment.

If you’re a mine contractor, there at a mine to run mine equipment, open a new section, help close and reclaim another, them make sure the mine operator gives you a picture of what is going on since the last time you were there. Remember you must receive site specific hazard training on annual basis, the first time you enter every mine. 

If you’re a mine contractor who provides service or maintenance, you do need the same site-specific training on an annual basis for every mine you enter. If your company conducts annual refresher training and has been treated “as miners” by MSHA, then hold that meeting, review any information you can get from the mine operators you work for and at the very least, review your own company policies, procedures and practices that you would apply at a mine inspected by MSHA. I’m sure things change in your line of work too. Make sure what you plan to do also meets the intent of MSHA’s Part 56 Mandatory Standards. Don’t forget about Hazard Communication, Hearing Conservation, Confined Space, Dust Controls and any other special PPE you might need.

One last point, it’s my personal pet peeve. When you conduct this training on “changes” is also important. It should be conducted as close to the start-up of the mine as possible. If you are a seasonal or “intermittent” mine operator, this usually means before you open up in the spring. That means the day you hold the meeting determines the date and annual cycle of refresher training. If someone gives you some grief, point out that you are allowed to conduct training in as many sessions as you want and the meeting on “changes’ is your last scheduled session for the year in question.

The guide states: “Part 46 specifies a minimum of 8 hours each year". The subjects to be addressed and the length of each session is up to you, as long as you address any changes, such as new procedures, new mining equipment, or new health hazards that could affect the health and safety of the miners. If you want to provide the annual training in a single 8-hour session every year, that is acceptable. If you would rather provide your miners’ refresher training in smaller blocks of time, such as weekly toolbox talks that is acceptable, too. The total training time must add up to at least 8 hours.” (You can also conduct more than eight hours if you feel it is necessary.)

Just be careful, providing training in smaller blocks of time manner does require that you document each toolbox and update a training certificate as you go. You still need to provide an annual certificate that meets the requirements of Part 46.

Are training anniversary dates for annual refresher training established by the actual date of the original training the training is completed or by the month that the training was completed in? The answer is: 

By the end of that month. For example, if a miner completed annual refresher training some time in February, 2022, the next annual refresher training must be completed by the end of the following February, 2023.

The actual date of the day doesn’t matter. Don’t let anyone tell you different. I would also offer that if one part of training was held in February and you complete it in March, then the cycle is always the last day March of the following year.

Stay Safe!

…Marino Franchini