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From the Assistant Secretary's Desk — Holmes Safety Association - June 19, 2013

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health On June 6, 2013, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the members of the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association (Holmes) overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment and changes to their by-laws to create a mine rescue organization within Holmes – the Holmes Mine Rescue Association. This action reestablishes mine rescue as an important function within the Joseph A. Holmes Association, created in 1916.

The Holmes Mine Rescue Association will provide the opportunity for the mine rescue community to collaborate to develop best practices, procedures, and training to enhance mine rescue capabilities. It will also serve as a vehicle to disseminate guidelines and provide training and tools to the mining public, and will be a sustainable and recognizable national structure to improve mine rescue efforts when accidents occur.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration through my direction has sought, working with the mining community, to address the gaps in mine emergency response, particularly those identified in recent tragedies. At three mine rescue summits and several events held with the mine rescue community on mine emergency response gaps, we have discussed the need for a national mine rescue structure to address many mine emergency response issues. The re-establishment of Holmes as a national organization to support and provide needed guidance for mine rescue is the solution.

This historic vote brings mine rescue back to its roots within the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association. Mine rescue is the riskiest and most challenging rescue work undertaken in this country. Having personally participated in mine emergency response and recovery efforts in the past, I truly appreciate how much mine rescue personnel do to be ready to respond. Volunteers are called up at a moment’s notice to travel miles underground, often in extreme conditions following mine fires and explosions to find and rescue fellow miners. We owe these volunteer mine rescuers from the mining community the best training and support available for these high risk missions.

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