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MSHA News Release No. 2000-0620
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452 (office)
             (703) 587-6174 (cellular)

Released Tuesday, June 20, 2000

MSHA Launches Accident Reduction Program in Appalachian Coalfields

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today began an accident and injury awareness campaign in the coalfields of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. "Take It to the Miners" will address specific safety problems in geographic areas where coal mining fatalities are most prevalent.

"Of the 15 coal mining fatalities so far this year, seven occurred in Kentucky and two each in Virginia and West Virginia," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Accident reduction programs are an integral part of MSHA's mission. These initiatives take on the greatest significance in areas where the fatality rates are highest."

Since eight of the 11 deaths in those three states occurred on the surface, MSHA initially will focus its efforts at surface operations.

"Take It to the Miners" is a six-month program designed to reach 10,000 coal miners in approximately 500 mines. Six MSHA training specialists will travel throughout the coalfields, conducting specialized safety courses in several key areas, including miners' rights, accident prevention, supervisory responsibilities, hazard recognition and task training. These programs have been designed so that they can be readily modified to meet the mining conditions encountered at a particular mine.

To better serve those mine operations without classroom facilities, MSHA's Mine Emergency Command Vehicle will function as a classroom on wheels, traveling from one mine site to another. It is furnished with training equipment and can accommodate up to 15 miners at a time. Housed at the Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, West Virginia, the Mine Emergency Command Vehicle primarily serves as a base station during mine emergencies, becoming the key communications link between mine officials at the surface and miners who may be trapped underground.

As part of MSHA's accident reduction initiative, McAteer said he intends to meet personally with top-level mining officials from some operations that have experienced fatalities. "I want to hear about each operation's safety program and determine how government, industry and labor can support each other and eliminate fatal accidents in the mining industry," he said.

McAteer hopes that the success of "Take It to the Miners" will mirror the excellent results of MSHA's Small Mines Initiative, started in 1994. As its name indicates, that program focused on the high incidence of accidents and deaths at small mining operations in the United States. Then, too, MSHA's Mine Emergency Command Vehicle served as a classroom training setting.