OSHA Inspection


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are both Department of Labor agencies. Each agency has its own separate laws or rules; however, the jurisdiction of the two agencies is mutually exclusive.

Occasionally, mine inspectors will claim a right to inspect a location not previously considered a mine. And conversely, an OSHA inspector may claim jurisdiction at the site MSHA currently regulates.

The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established stringent federal regulations for workplace safety and health.

Later in 1977, experts revised the Coal Act to create the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, which included stronger, expansive penalties. Moreover, the Mine Improvement and Emergency Response Act of 2006 increased mine-related requirements and penalties.

The Department of Labor oversees the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). MSHA’s budget is comparable to OSHA’s, but the industrial community it oversees gets confined to about 12,000 mining and processing sites. Otherwise, employers are regulated by OSHA everywhere else.

The two agencies’ jurisdictions are mutually exclusive, as they are based on completely different legislation.

To avoid jurisdictional problems, the two agencies have a time-honored memorandum of understanding that specifies which facilities are mines and which are not. This agreement, on the other hand, does not account for every possible scenario. Even today, there are times when a law, policy, or legal decision must get considered to determine which body has authority.

The Differences Between MSHA and OSHA

Each agency has its own set of rules and regulations. Both agencies have significant standards in place to prevent injuries, but their approaches and requirements are different. OSHA, for example, mandates businesses to keep a log of all accidents and illnesses on site. On the other hand, according to the law, companies must report every accident and illness to MSHA. Moreover, the penalties for infractions and the right to judicial appeal differ depending on the agency.

The frequency with which inspections are conducted is one of the most significant enforcement discrepancies. Surface mines get examined at least twice a year, and underground mines are inspected at least four times a year under MSHA. Employers covered by OSHA, on the other hand, may never receive an inspection. Aside from scheduled reviews, fatal accidents and disasters, and hazard complaints are the main triggers for OSHA intervention.

So, Who is in Charge?

MSHA regulations apply to all employers on mine property. MSHA may hold some employers personally liable if they are independent contractors who are considered mine operators. Mine operators are legally accountable for all compliance. However, independent contractors may be jointly or individually liable as “operators” in their own right under the law.

MSHA has jurisdiction over visitors, outside truckers, outside delivery, repair, and service providers. They will not get held liable if exposed to hazards or violate the rules; instead, the mine operator will be held accountable. While such visitors may be subject to OSHA wherever they are, everything at a mine gets governed by MSHA.

While both MSHA and OSHA have substantial laws to prevent injuries, their approaches and requirements are ultimately distinct.