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DOL News Release No: 04-2242-NAT
U.S. Department of Labor
Contact: Eryn Witcher
Phone: (202) 693-4676
Contact: Suzy Bohnert
Phone: (202) 693-9420


Released Thursday, October 28, 2004

MSHA, Kentucky Kickoff Anti-Drug and Alcohol Abuse Initiative
"Keeping America's Mines Drug- and Alcohol-Free" is New Program's Theme


FRANKFORT, Ky.-Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), today joined with LaJuana Wilcher, secretary of Kentucky's environmental and public protection cabinet, to kickoff a new public education and outreach initiative designed to warn the mining community about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and abuse in the nation's mines.

"Drug and alcohol use and abuse in the nation's mines are significant problems," said Lauriski. "Toxicology reports in several recent fatal mining accidents have shown the presence of drugs or alcohol in the victims' systems. In addition, our state counterparts around the country have indicated to us that drug and alcohol use in this nation's mines represents a significant barrier to improved safety performance. We want to join forces to make sure the mining community understands that using drugs and alcohol in the mining workplace endangers not just individuals, but co-workers and families."

"I am very excited about this new partnership with MSHA. I look forward to the significant progress we can make together to build a safe and drug-free workplace in our mining community," said Secretary Wilcher. "We all owe a debt of gratitude to the hard-working men and women who mine the coal we depend on to maintain our quality of life. Our miners deserve a safe, drug-free workplace and, working together with the miners and the coal industry, we can make this happen."

The initiative kicked off with a press conference today to announce a joint MSHA-Kentucky Southern Appalachia (Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia) Summit on Drug Abuse that is planned for early December in Kentucky. Details on the summit, including location and registration, will be available on MSHA's Web site next week. The summit will include representatives from the mining industry, labor, public health experts, and federal, state and local government personnel who deal with mining issues.

In addition, Lauriski announced the assignment of Ray McKinney, a senior MSHA safety and health official, to oversee critical issues within the Southern Appalachia region. He will be based in Pikeville, Ky., and will direct MSHA accident-prevention efforts, including enforcement, education and training, technical assistance and substance use and abuse in the workplace, focusing primarily on Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Virginia. He will also serve as the primary liaison with state officials to improve health and safety in the region's mines.

"Ray McKinney is the strong leader that MSHA and the mining community need to direct accident-prevention efforts in the Southern Appalachia region, including substance use and abuse outreach efforts," said Lauriski. "His 34 years of experience in the mining industry and in mine safety and health will help us continue our drive to zero injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the mining workplace."

More information on workplace substance use and abuse programs is on the U.S. Department of Labor's Web site at www.dol.gov.