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DOL News Release No: 04-2433-NAT
U.S. Department of Labor
Contact: Eryn Witcher
Phone: (202) 693-4676
Contact: Suzy Bohnert
Phone: (202) 693-9420


Released Wednesday, December 2, 2004

MSHA, States to Convene Drug Abuse Summit in Hazard, KY

ARLINGTON, Va. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the states of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia will host a one-day summit on drug and alcohol abuse at mining operations in the Southern Appalachia region on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004, at the Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Ky. Mine operators, miners, public health experts, and representatives of industry, labor and state governments are encouraged to attend.

"Recent toxicology reports from mining accidents indicate the presence of drugs or alcohol in some of the victims," said David Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Use or abuse of alcohol or drugs in the mining environment can significantly impair a miner's ability to focus on the task at hand and avoid the kinds of hazards that can maim or kill workers."

In convening the drug and alcohol summit, MSHA and the states want to raise the level of awareness concerning recent drug and alcohol use in the mining industry and present possible remedies to address the situation at mining operations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.

"Drug or alcohol abuse in mining by any one person puts the safety of all workers at risk," said Dye. "One impaired person can bring tragedy to many other innocent workers. Mining is a complicated and potentially hazardous occupation, and a clear focus by all mining company personnel is a key component of workplace safety."

One of the goals of the drug and alcohol abuse summit is to identify priorities and actions needed to address what is perceived as a growing problem in the mining industry.

"We also need to learn what we can from miners, mine operators and public health experts who have successfully addressed this issue and would be willing to share the best practices for handling such situations," said Dye.

The one-day summit will include panel discussions on substance abuse issues, employer responses to substance abuse situations and the miner experience. There will also be a presentation on creating a drug-free workplace and breakout discussions on the government's role in substance abuse, the role of workers' compensation carriers, priority setting for the mine substance abuse task force and integrated efforts among government, industry, labor and community resources.

The summit will be held at the Hazard Community and Technical College located at 1 Community College Drive in Hazard. Proceedings will begin at 8 a.m. and are open to the public. More information on the summit is available on the Internet at www.msha.gov.