Rock Products

JAN 2019

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62 • ROCK products • January 2019 www.rockproducts.com LAW It is so much slower than the rate of technological improve- ment that any regulations that are eventually adopted will either be overtaken by evolving technology before they can be finalized, or be will be outdated so shortly after adoption that the change will not be worth the effort it would take to make it. For this reason, MSHA will have to be more open to experimentation. We are already seeing signs that this is happening. In the past, MSHA would routinely cite problems with experimental equipment where the experiment had not been successful. They argued that, once installed on a piece of equipment, the experimental accessory had to be maintained regardless of whether it worked. MSHA has recently announced in several fora that it will cease that practice. It has gone so far as to say that if an operator is cited in such a situation, they should call headquarters and the citation will be vacated. The other way in which MSHA could be both more open to experimentation and modernization is by reshaping the Petition for Modification (PfM) process into a facilitating rather than restraining mechanism. Without going into a lot of detail, relatively simple changes to the current PfM proce- dures would encourage, rather than discourage operators to present technological improvements to MSHA as alternative ways of achieving the same or greater level of safety than is currently achieved by the regulations. This would be beneficial on a number of fronts. First, it would avoid much of the inefficient process used for changing the regulations themselves. Second, rather than imposing a "one size fits all" regulatory solution on every operator, it would allow operators to pro- pose solutions that work best for them and, eventually create an evolving menu of innovative, technological solutions to safety issues as they arise. Ideally, it could become a way for a repository of best practices to replace the minimum stan- dards that now form the regulatory basis of MSHA's mission. I know these aspirations won't come easily, but hey, it's open- ing day. We're all undefeated. There's always hope.

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