CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration announced plans Monday to further delay a requirement for underground coal-mine operators to equip mining machines with devices meant to protect miners from being run over or crushed by those machines.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration officials had already delayed an "emergency" rule planned for March 2011. Agency officials now say they won't issue an emergency rule at all, and will instead issue a regular rule, which takes longer.
In a news release, MSHA officials cited as their reason President Obama's January executive order to avoid regulations "that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive."
"MSHA is proposing a rule instead of issuing a scheduled emergency temporary standard to provide opportunity for public participation prior to implementation," the agency said in its news release.
A proposed rule will be published Wednesday, with public comment accepted through mid-November. No deadline was set for issuing a final rule.
The rule in question would require mine operators to install "proximity detection" systems to shut off remote-controlled underground mining machines when they get too close to miners.
Such a rule would strengthen protection of miners who work near continuous mining machines by reducing the potential for them to be run over by the machines or crushed between machines and mine walls.
Between 1984 and 2010, 30 miners died and 220 were injured when they became crushed, pinned or struck by these machines. Two such deaths occurred in 2010 and one, to date, in 2011, MSHA said.
"These fatalities and injuries could have been prevented by use of a proximity detection system," MSHA said.