Proposed Rule to Require Alcohol- and Drug-Free Mines
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which promotes improved safety and health conditions in the nation's mines through mandatory standards and other means, has proposed a rule to make all mines alcohol and drug free. The notice of proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on September 8, 2008. The rule would apply to all metal, nonmetal and coal mines and would address the shortcomings of existing regulations and provide one uniform and improved standard for alcohol and drugs. The misuse of alcohol and/or drugs at the workplace compromises health and safety in all industries, and a 1998 analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that one in five workplace fatalities tested positive for alcohol or drugs. Given that mining is inherently dangerous and individuals working full-time in the industry report high incidence of alcohol and drug use (11.3 percent are heavy alcohol users and 7.3 percent are illicit drug users, per 2007 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), MSHA has proposed the rule to address this risk.
“Mining under the best of circumstances can be dangerous,” said Richard E. Stickler, Acting Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health, “and the use of alcohol and illegal substances creates additional, unnecessary hazards in the workplace. If one miner is abusing substances, everyone’s safety is put at risk.” The proposed rule prohibits the possession and use of alcohol and/or drugs on mine property, requires drug-testing of miners, and requires those who violate the rule to be removed from the performance of safety-sensitive job functions.
The proposed rule also focuses on prevention and treatment, and requires all operators, regardless of size, to be proactive. “Miners do not operate alone. They have to work together to create a safe environment,” notes Stickler. The rule would require an alcohol- and drug-free mine program with written policies that are distributed to workers, mandatory employee education, specific supervisory training, and referrals to assistance for miners who violate the policy. Those removed from the performance of safety-sensitive job functions would be returned to their responsibilities upon completion of the recommended treatment and confirmation of their alcohol- and drug-free status by a return-to-duty test.
The notice of proposed rulemaking offers interested parties an opportunity to submit comments for consideration prior to the publication of final regulations. The deadline is Oct. 8, 2008. Directions for submitting comments (which should be clearly identified with “RIN 1219-AB41”) are available at www.regulations.gov. Options include online, email, fax, mail and by-hand methods.
Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace, also at the U.S. Department of Labor, offers a variety of tools and resources on its Web site to assist employers in all industries in creating and implementing alcohol- and drug-free workplace programs, including a drug-free workplace policy builder, training materials and helplines for employees who may have problems with alcohol and other drugs.