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Mines (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022

Who does this apply to?

These Regulations apply to those working in the mining and quarrying industry. For example, mine operators; mine managers; safety representatives and representatives of employee safety; any employer with employees who work below ground at mines; and self-employed contractors working below ground at mines.

When did it change?

The Regulations will come into operation on 21 March 2022.

What does it mean?

This Statutory Rule makes provision, in relation to coal mine workers, to implement in Northern Ireland, Directive (EU) 2017/2398 of 12 December 2017 amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at work.

The Mines Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 impose duties on mine operators to protect persons at work from the risks to their health arising from exposure to inhalable and respirable dust and Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) below ground in coal mines. Directive (EU) 2017/2398 amends the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) and sets down new occupational exposure limits values (OELVs) for a number of carcinogens or mutagens. Importantly, it includes a new binding limit for exposure to RCS of 0.1mg/m3.

Northern Ireland already has an established WEL for RCS of 0.1mg/m3, identical to the new EU limit, but that WEL is disapplied below ground in coal mines by the Mines Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016. Since 2007 an RCS concentration of up to 0.3mg/m3 has been permitted below ground in coal mines, with the Mines Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 requiring remedial action to be taken at or above this level.

Following the introduction of the Mines Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 all other COSHH requirements now apply below ground at coal mines. The current RCS WEL, and therefore the new EU limit, of 0.1mg/m3 already applies above ground at coal mines and at all other mines.

The establishment of the new binding EU OELV for RCS means that it is no longer possible

to apply the higher limit of 0.3mg/m3 below ground in coal mines and the Mines Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 are being amended accordingly.

What’s changed?

These Regulations amend the Mines Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 to remove the disapplication of the Workplace Exposure Limit for respirable crystalline silica below ground in coal mines, by:

  • Substituting a new definition of “action level” in order to remove the reference to respirable crystalline silica.

  • Omitting Regulation 44 so that the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (S.R. 2003 No. 34) apply to respirable crystalline silica dust below ground in coal mines.

  • Amending Regulation 45 to remove all references to respirable crystalline silica.

The Regulations are available here.

An explanatory memorandum is available here.

Parliament January 2022


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