March 17, 2020Articles

Less than one week ago the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 (coronavirus) a pandemic. In the days that have followed, the United States House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide access to testing, food assistance, Medicaid funding, paid sick leave and unemployment benefits to workers. The United States Senate is expected to pass a version to be signed into law in the near future.

COVID-19 is certainly a national concern that will affect many individuals and businesses. Moving forward there will be questions and few answers on how to approach this issue. Dinsmore has published the following legal alerts on COVID-19 and will continue to post alerts as more information is obtained:

For those in the mining industry, there are two immediate issues that must be considered in short order. First, can an operator ask an inspector about his/her travel and potential exposure to COVID-19? Can this also include questions regarding any symptoms the inspector has shown? Can an operator refuse to allow an inspection to occur based on a belief an inspector may have contracted COVID-19? Second, can operators and contractors postpone any training – such as annual refresher – because of new restrictions suggested by the White House to limit groups of individuals?

Thankfully, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) has been in contact with MSHA staff to address these issues. NSSGA has reported to its membership the following information.

Normal inspections will continue as these are deemed necessary but inspectors have been told to limit conversations with large groups of individuals.

Annual refresher training will be assessed on a case-by-case basis but a 30-day grace period will be provided for operators to finish any necessary training. This grace period will also be re-evaluated as the situation develops. MSHA noted if an operator has a small number of employees (under 10) the 30-day grace period may not apply. The only recommendation, at this time, is for operators to find remote or online options for training if possible. MSHA also has announced this same policy will be implemented for audiometric testing.

Obviously, as COVID-19 continues to be a national topic of conversation, further issues may arise in the coming days and weeks. Please reach out to Jason Nutzman at [email protected] if you have specific issue or concern regarding how MSHA will adapt. The attorneys of Dinsmore’s MSHA practice group will track all issues and update our clients and friends in the industry with information as it is obtained.

Stay tuned for further updates on these important issues.