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Appeals court denies MSHA rehearing on vacated changes to workplace exam rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals denied the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's petition for a panel rehearing of a case involving attempted changes to rules around requirements for workplace examinations in metal and nonmetal mines.

Under the Obama administration in 2017, MSHA issued a safety standard that requires mine operators to examine all areas before miners begin work and to record all conditions that could adversely affect safety or health. The Trump administration attempted to amend the requirements by allowing examinations as workers began work and exempting requirements to record adverse conditions if promptly corrected. The court ruled that the changes are contradictory to laws requiring that no mandatory or health or safety standard should reduce the protection afforded to miners by an existing standard.

"MSHA failed to offer a reasoned explanation why the examination and recordkeeping requirements of the 2018 amendment satisfy the no-less-protection standard," the court concluded in a June 11 decision. "The 2018 amendment is therefore [beyond the agency's authority] and unenforceable."

The court vacated the amendment to the rules on workplace examinations rather than remanding it to the agency as MSHA requested. The court denied the agency a rehearing on the matter in its Aug. 14 order.