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DOL/MSHA News Release
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (202) 693-9425

Released Tuesday, July 29, 2003

MSHA Addresses Recent Trend in Mining Fatalities
Agency launches massive safety sweep aimed at all 1500 U.S. coal mines


ARLINGTON, VA- The U. S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) yesterday declared "National Coal Mine Safety Awareness Day" to raise the awareness level among coal miners and mine operators concerning hazards and the recent trend in mining fatalities nationwide. As part of the effort, MSHA officials began blanketing the nation's coal mines to speak directly to miners and operators about ways to create a more safe work environment.

"On the first-ever National Coal Mine Safety Awareness Day, we began to carry the important message of enhanced miner safety directly to working miners across the nation," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The past two years have been the safest in history in terms of mining fatalities however the trend of recent fatalities in coal mining are of great concern to us. Our goal is to send every miner home safe and healthy after each shift."

In a recent 24-day period, seven coal miners were killed in accidents, bringing the total number of fatalities nationwide this year in coal mining to 21 as of July 25, compared with 16 at the same time last year. Four of those seven fatalities occurred in Kentucky. Also of concern to agency officials is the fact that three of the fatalities involved supervisors and three others involved employees doing maintenance work.

MSHA has dispatched over 600 enforcement personnel to the more than 1,500 active coal mines in the nation over the next two weeks to speak directly with miners, mine operators and contractors urging them to use safe work procedures and focus on potential hazards. Agency officials will tailor safety information based on the nature of work and conditions at each mining site.

In addition to the coal mine sweep, top MSHA officials will conduct a conference call with interested mine operators and other mining industry personnel concerning miner safety issues at their operations. The agency has also placed specific safety information on its web site at www.msha.gov that provides advice and guidance for avoiding mining hazards.