The Basics of MSHA Compliance

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is a government agency—part of the U.S. Department of Labor—responsible for overseeing and enforcing safe mining practices to protect mine workers. While the first federal mine safety statutes were passed in 1891, MSHA wasn’t created until the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act was passed in 1977. The agency and its oversight activities are divided across numerous areas of focus. 

  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health: Plans, directs, and administers the agency’s efforts to eliminate fatalities and minimize accidents and health hazards by establishing health and safety standards. 
  • Mine Safety and Health Enforcement: Enforces standards through inspections, corrective action, training, and other oversight activities.
  • Program Evaluation and Information Resources: Conducts MSHA program evaluation, data collection, and analytics activities.
  • Administration and Management: Coordinates the agency’s budgets, policies, facilities, internal standard operating procedures and protocols, and grants.
  • Technical Support: Provides subject-matter expertise to other areas of MSHA through research, investigations, and assistance with emergency operations.
  • Educational Policy and Development: Plans, monitors, and evaluates MSHA’s education and training programs to promote safety and health in the Nation’s mining industry.
  • Standards, Regulations, and Variances: Serves as the public’s point of contact on regulatory matters and guides the agency’s rulemaking activities.
  • Assessments, Accountability, Special Enforcement, and Investigations: Collects fines and monetary penalties from MSHA enforcement actions.

Activities performed by MSHA

MSHA’s primary role is enforcing and overseeing the mining industry’s compliance with worker health and safety standards. MSHA established these standards to ensure that Miners’ Rights to a safe and healthy work environment are fulfilled within their workplaces. It performs this role through inspections, investigations, and training programs while also serving as a resource for technical assistance. MSHA’s regular interactions with on-the-ground mining sites and personnel include:

  • Regular Inspections: Under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, MSHA is required to conduct mine inspections regularly every year to ensure the routine application of standards across all operating mines in the US. 
  • Accident Investigations: When accidents occur, MSHA investigates the incident to determine causes and identify methods to prevent future incidents.
  • Compliance Assistance: MSHA provides resources and support to help mine operators understand, implement, and comply with regulations.
  • Training and Education: The agency develops training programs to educate miners and operators about safety practices and regulatory requirements.
  • Technical Support: MSHA offers technical expertise to address complex safety and health issues in mines.

Health and safety activities required by MSHA 

MSHA rules are outlined in Title 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations (30 CFR) and are designed to ensure a safe and productive working environment for miners. While the regulations themselves are detailed and comprehensive, requirements can be grouped into six main categories: 

Approved Operating Plans and Protocols: Operators must develop and implement various plans, including emergency response plans, ventilation plans, and roof control plans, which must be approved by MSHA.

Standards for Unhealthy and Hazardous Conditions: Mine operators must comply with MSHA standards for air quality, noise levels, equipment safety, personal protective equipment, and more. 

Incident Reporting: Mine operators must report accidents, injuries, and occupational illnesses to MSHA. 

Training Programs: Mine operators must provide comprehensive safety training for miners, which includes new miner orientation, annual refresher courses, and task-specific training.

Internal Inspections and Monitoring: In addition to allowing MSHA to access mines and mine records for their oversight activities, mines must also have their own internal monitoring systems to ensure ongoing attention to safety. 

Record keeping: Mine operators must also maintain records of all the above activities to prove compliance during an inspection or audit

In addition to the above, mining companies must comply with the MINER Act passed in 2006, which updates emergency response and reporting requirements to use newer technology, shorten reporting time, and increase penalties for non-compliance.

How to Remain Compliant with MSHA Rules

There is a lot at stake for mining companies when it comes to health and safety. Not just compliance, but the lives of your workers and the reputation of your business rely on strictly promoting and protecting employee health. Here are key steps mine operators can take to remain diligent and leave nothing to chance:

Develop strict internal safety programs

Establish comprehensive safety and health programs tailored to each mine’s specific needs. This includes creating and regularly updating mine safety plans, establishing accountability for their implementation, and ensuring they are readily accessible to all employees.

Implement a framework for regular training

Ensure all miners receive the required training in a format that is understandable, relatable, and easy to apply to real-life job scenarios. Incorporate quizzes and testing and use numerous formats like group work, hands-on training, and visual aids to encourage retention. Training should be documented, and records should be kept up to date.

Perform internal audits and inspections

Regularly inspect the mine for hazards and compliance with MSHA standards. This includes checking equipment, monitoring environmental conditions, and reviewing work practices. Address any issues promptly to avoid violations during MSHA inspections.

Reinforce the importance of proper documentation

Keep detailed records of all safety and health activities, including training records, inspection reports, and incident logs. Proper documentation demonstrates compliance and makes MSHA investigations and audits faster and more effective.

Get employees engaged

Foster a culture of safety by involving employees in the development of safety programs. Encourage them to report hazards or unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation. Establish safety committees and regular safety meetings where team members can make suggestions and express concerns.

Stay informed and connected to MSHA resources

Take advantage of the resources and support offered by MSHA, such as compliance assistance programs, technical support, and educational materials. MSHA’s Small Mines Office, for example, provides special assistance to smaller operations that may lack the resources of larger mines.

Use technology to make compliance easier

With all the documentation necessary to maintain MSHA compliance, it is important to leverage technology to remain organized and to also help ensure safety protocols are followed. Mobile platforms like a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS):

  • Allow records and training materials to be accessed from anywhere
  • Trigger important activities like inspections and internal reporting
  • Report on critical data points like incidents and inspection findings
  • Streamline workflows for proper oversight


Safety in the mining industry has come a long way. The advent of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has played a vital role in reinforcing the importance of diligence in not only ensuring worker health but also in saving lives. 

The comprehensive and detailed requirements require a great deal of organization and attention to detail. But with the right tools, mining companies can easily meet the challenge with ease. Contact us to learn more about how a CMMS can help facilitate MSHA compliance and ensure the safety and health of miners at your organization.

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