October 18, 2002

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has established a new Small Mine Office to address the specialized needs of the nearly 6,500 small mines around the country. MSHA defines small mines as any surface or underground operation with five or fewer employees.

"For the last several years, the fatal incident rate at small mine operations has been more than double the rate for larger mines," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "This new division will enable us to better focus our resources on reducing these accident and injury rates.

"The miners working at small mines in this country, and the operations that employ them, deserve the very best performance from MSHA," said Lauriski. The Small Mine Office will enable us to more effectively accomplish the agendas of President Bush and Secretary Chao and to meet our strategic program priorities that call for strong, fair, effective enforcement; expanded compliance assistance, education and outreach; and national leadership in promoting the value of safety and health."

MSHA's Small Mine Office will:

  • Develop additional training materials tailored to small mines
  • Provide on-site compliance assistance to small mine operations throughout the country
  • Expand training and informational resources on the Web for small operators
  • Focus compliance assistance and training visits on mines that do not have their own safety and training departments and cannot use Web-based resources
  • Identify regulations that create an undue burden on small mine operators and develop alternate ways to provide the same level of protection

Heading up the Small Mine Office is Kevin Burns, a 15-year veteran of MSHA. Burns has more than 20 years of experience in the mining industry. During his career, he has worked on more than a dozen regulations, including Part 46, roof control, impoundments at coal mines and explosives at metal/nonmetal mines. He has worked in several different program areas within MSHA, including Technical Support, the Office of Assessments, and Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health.

Previously, Burns was the director of safety and health services at the National Stone Association, an attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll, P.C., of Pittsburgh, and a senior counsel with the American Mining Congress. He holds an undergraduate degree in mining engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from Duquesne University.


MSHA has issued a proposed rule that would allow manufacturers who seek MSHA approval of their products for use in underground mines to use independent laboratories to conduct the testing and evaluation of products for approval. MSHA is currently responsible, in most cases, for evaluation and testing of products to ensure safe operation in the underground mine environment.

"This rule would increase the availability of a wider range of mining equipment with enhanced, modern safety features to the mining industry," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "It would also reduce costs and broaden the market for more varying types of mining equipment."

The proposal would also allow the agency to approve products based on non-MSHA product safety standards when the agency has determined those standards provide the same degree of protection as agency approval requirements, or can be modified to do so. Under the new rule, at the manufacturer's option, MSHA would accept testing and evaluation of various types of mining equipment performed by an independent laboratory for purposes of MSHA approval only after certain requirements are met.

MSHA would retain its testing and evaluation program under the proposed rule and equipment manufacturers could still choose to have MSHA test and evaluate their products. The agency would continue to evaluate approval requests for all products regardless of the approval standard used for testing and evaluation. A product approval by an independent laboratory, either domestic or foreign, based on non-MSHA product safety standards would not automatically result in MSHA approval.

Costs to equipment manufacturers would be reduced by elimination of repeat testing and evaluation already performed by other testing labs and the need for multiple product lines for manufacturers who sell their products in other countries. It is estimated that the annual net cost savings for applicants would be $1.5 million.


California's state OSHA program (Cal/OSHA) recognized Cardinal Cogen this week for achieving 10 years without a lost work time injury.

The fact that companies in the electric, gas and sanitary services industry average five lost workdays per 100 employees each year makes Cardinal Cogen's safety record even more remarkable.

"Cardinal Cogen deserves the highest praise for its achievement," said Suzanne Marria, acting chief of Cal/OSHA. "This is what Cal/OSHA wants to see -- workers going home healthy to their families every night."

Cardinal Cogen, a General Electric-owned power plant located on Stanford University grounds, supplies electricity to the college and surrounding area and is a member of Cal/OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (Cal/VPP). Cal/VPP brings employers, workers and Cal/OSHA consultation staff together to implement safety and health programs at a level of effectiveness rare in industry.

Becoming certified as a Cal/VPP member is not easy -- only 27 California companies have accomplished it. To become certified a company must involve its entire work force in its safety system and meet stringent criteria established by Cal/OSHA's consultation service. Yet Cardinal Cogen is one of five General Electric companies to achieve Cal/VPP Star status in California.

"General Electric's unprecedented level of commitment to worker health and safety represents a benchmark for all California companies. This level of success is only possible through an active collaboration by management and workers at the company," said Marria.

Cal/VPP companies experience benefits beyond safe and healthy employees. They demonstrate better injury and illness rates than others in their industry and, as a result, enjoy lower workers' compensation costs and see an increase in worker productivity

"A lot of people think safety training reduces productivity, but our plant is running 98 percent of the time. At Cardinal our most valued asset is our employees. Over the years our safety culture has shifted from reactive to proactive, and that ties in directly to a safe and productive environment," said Walter Gonzalez, Cardinal Cogen's environmental health and safety manager.

General Electric's partnership with Cal/OSHA began at its Flight Test Operation (FTO) facility in Mojave, which achieved Cal/VPP Star certification in July 1996. The Cardinal Cogen facility was next, becoming certified in July 2000, and other GE operations followed: Garrett Aviation in Los Angeles in January 2001, Vallecitos Nuclear Center in Sunol in March, 2001, and GE Nuclear Energy, San Jose, which achieved certification in August, 2002.

At its facility, Cardinal Cogen produces steam and electricity through a process called cogeneration, the simultaneous production of electricity and heat using a single fuel. The heat produced from electricity generation is captured and utilized to produce steam, which can be used as a heat source for industrial or domestic purposes, or to generate additional electricity. Through cogeneration technology, heat that would otherwise be wasted is harnessed and used.

Cal/VPP companies partner with Cal/OSHA -- whose services are free of charge -- and make a commitment to adhere to a strict occupational safety and health improvement plan prescribed by Cal/OSHA. Their programs are re-evaluated by Cal/OSHA consultation staff every three years. And in return for their commitment, employers are exempted from routine Cal/OSHA compliance inspections. Companies interested in participation in Cal/VPP should contact the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service at (415) 703-5272.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces the issuance of a patent for a handwipe that can quickly and easily detect the presence of lead on skin, the steering wheels of vehicles used in metal industries, and surfaces such as tables, floors, walls and window sills.

"This invention is important because it can help protect workers from lead poisoning," says Andrew Watkins, director, CDC's technology transfer office. "The handwipe can test a variety of surfaces and indicates the presence of lead through a simple color change. This would alert a worker that there is some level of lead contamination and that he or she should perform more thorough hand washing."

Lead residues on the hands of workers can be a significant health risk since lead may be ingested during eating, drinking or smoking. Although hand washing, if done carefully, can remove all lead residues, it is difficult for individuals to determine whether hand washing has been thorough enough.

October 20-26 is Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Lead exposure is a significant environmental hazard that can affect large and diverse segments of the population. For example, exposure can occur to workers involved in the removal of lead-based paint or the renovation of buildings containing lead-based paint, as well as workers in metal industries.

U.S Patent No. 6,248,593 is owned by CDC and is entitled, "Handwipe Disclosing Method for the Presence of Lead."

Under the federal Technology Transfer Act, government laboratories can patent and license inventions to businesses. Also, federal labs may collaborate with companies on research and development projects. These activities benefit the public by encouraging the development of improved health care products and safety devices.

CDC's technology portfolio includes tests and vaccines for human and animal diseases, occupational safety and medical devices, and software applications. To learn more about CDC technologies, visit the web site at