Wyoming Mining Association Safety and Reclamation Luncheon
Moran, Wyoming - June 21, 2002
Thank you, Steve, for that kind introduction.
Let me start by saying, "My name is Dave Lauriski, I'm from MSHA, and I'm here to help you."
Organizations like the Wyoming Mining Association are of vital importance to our mission. Groups like yours play a key role in improving and enhancing the safety of mine workers throughout the nation. And Wyoming holds a special position of importance as our most productive coal mining State. So it's a great pleasure to be here.
I'd like to offer my personal congratulations also to your award winners today. You are leading the way. I look forward to the day when the whole mining industry matches the safety performance of today's very best, of which you are stellar examples.
Setting the Course
I've been directing MSHA now for more than a year. I should mention that for part of that time I had the very able assistance of a lady from Wyoming who I believe is known to you -- Patty McDonald. She was a terrific chief of staff. We were all sorry when she decided to return to Wyoming -- but nobody could argue with someone wanting to return to such a beautiful State! She was a great member of our team and instrumental in getting us off to a solid start as we work towards the next level of improved safety and health performance.
As you know, I came to this position from a career in the mining industry as a safety and health professional and as a manager. And as the son of a coal miner, I'm passionate about achieving greater safety and health for all miners, and truly honored to have been selected by President George W. Bush to lead MSHA.
Like all Federal agencies MSHA is working under the umbrella of the President Bush's long-term management agenda for improving the overall management and performance of the Federal government.
In the broadest terms, the President has called for all Federal agencies to become:
- Citizen centered, not bureaucracy-centered;
- Results oriented; and
- Market-based, promoting innovation through competition.
- Strategic management of human capital;
- The integration of budget and performance;
- Competitive sourcing;
- Expanded e-government;
- And improved financial management.
In this context we have set specific goals in mine safety and health:
- Reduce mining industry fatalities by 15 percent per year;
- Reduce lost-workday injuries by 50 percent over four years;
- Reduce coal mine dust and silica samples that indicate overexposure by 5 percent per year;
- And reduce noise samples that indicate overexposure by the same amount.
At the same time, we are working to create a cultural change in MSHA and in the mining industry that, I believe, will be critical to take our safety and health performance to the next level.
As you well know, the U.S. mining industry has made outstanding safety and health progress over the decades. Last year, the toll of mining deaths in this country was the lowest ever recorded.
Prior to that, however, we recognized that injuries and fatalities nationwide have plateaued in recent years. No longer are we seeing the consistent progress of earlier decades. And we have experienced some troubling setbacks.
This year, for instance, fatal accidents in mines are up, compared with the same time last year: As of today, 31 mining fatalities have occurred nationwide, compared with 27 on this date a year ago.
Here in Wyoming, we may be seeing a reflection of this national pattern. The number of Wyoming mine fatalities has been low, never more than two in a year. There were two in the year 2000, just one last year, but two so far this year.
Wyoming's rate of nonfatal days-lost accidents also has been low, especially in the coal industrybut in Wyoming's metal and nonmetal mines this rate rose slightly in the past two years.
We need to look at new ways of getting to the next level in safety and health. MSHA accomplished a great deal in the past, as an agency centered primarily on enforcement. At the same time, I believe we will stay "flat-lined" as long as enforcement remains the centerpiece around which all other activities revolve.
To get to the next level, we need to enlist the partnership of everyone in the mining industry organizations like yours, in particular. And that means a change in our culture. And it will mean a change in your culture.
Let me be clear. What we need to provide the mining industry is not less enforcement, but a healthy balance between enforcement, education and training, technical support, and compliance assistance.
I have discussed this philosophy with people from all sectors of the mining community who are concerned with safety and health, and I have discussed it extensively with people in MSHA, from individual enforcement personnel to top management, and there is general consensus on that principle.
In MSHA we talk about three elements of success: enforcement, education and training, and technical support: each of which includes the key element compliance assistance.
Together, they form our "MSHA triangle of success."
At the same time, we are working in accordance with the President's management agenda to:
- Bring greater accountability to the agency at all levels:
- Flatten the management structure and strengthen the field structure;
- Expand e-government services;
- Improve our fiscal management; and
- Develop our human capital through training employees in a balanced approach to safety and health.
In line with the President's goal to make the government more citizen-centered, last year we held dozens of stakeholder meetings.
These included general meetings in all of our 17 districts across the country and special meetings to focus on education and training issues and on information technology. We did this because we really wanted to hear from the people we serve in all sectors of the mining community. Some of you participated and I want to thank you for getting involved.
It would have been a mistake to assume we knew what the mining community had to say. We needed to listen before we could act. And we had a tremendous response from all sectors'management, miners, industry and labor groups, and safety professionals.
I also held similar meetings with MSHA employees throughout the country.
We explained to each group of stakeholders the situation we were facing the need to get to the next level in mine safety and health and asked for their advice.
Next, we reviewed and analyzed what was said at all these meetings. As you can imagine, the ideas we heard were wide-ranging and various. At the same time, we heard common and significant themes.
1. First of all, we heard about enforcement. We all recognize that enforcement is necessary and is part of the law. At the same time, our stakeholders told us that to get to the next level in safety and health, we had to direct our enforcement resources where they are needed most. Again, that is not less enforcement, but focused enforcement. We also heard of inconsistences that have caused problems for some.
2. The desire for more compliance assistance was probably the single most frequently heard comment. That includes assistance in understanding what the rules require, assistance in training miners, and assistance with safety and health technology. This does not mean less enforcement it is an adjunct to enforcement. It also does not mean free inspection visits except in those circumstances provided in the law.
3. There was a critical need expressed for improved education and training. That includes new and updated training materials that speak to the needs of today's miners, including materials in Spanish.
4. We heard our stakeholders say they wanted better access to information, especially online. They want to be able to better identify trends at their own operations and in the industry, they want to compare their record with others', and they want us to do more in using data to better identify problems and solutions.
5. We heard a great deal about the special needs of small mines. Small operators, as you know, without the resources of larger operations, are most in need of help when it comes to establishing a sound safety and health process, training their miners, and identifying new technology that may help them achieve safe production.
6. Finally, we heard that when it comes to regulatory activity, we need to listen closely to our stakeholders. Not all fixes for problems need to be regulatory, and when we do enter into rulemaking, we need to encourage the widest participation.
Initiatives and Prerogatives
As a result of these insights, we have developed a series of action items that have been incorporated into the roadmap for MSHA. This we call our "Initiatives and Prerogatives" for the 21st century. In the past couple of months or so, we have shared these with our stakeholders. These action items address the President's management objectives, the Secretary's goals, our own management goals and they complete the framework to move us into the 21st century.
A complete description would take more time than you have this morning -- but I would like to share some relevant points with you.
We are evaluating several aspects of MSHA's enforcement process to determine how we can achieve more effective, focused, and consistent enforcement.
This is an absolutely vital topic today throughout the U.S. Department of Labor. And if any of you happened to see the news on Monday about Secretary Chao's speech to the National Foundation for Independent Business, you know what I mean.
She announced that she is creating a new, permanent, senior position in the Department of Labor: a Director of Compliance Assistance. The job of this person will be to make sure all of the Department's agencies are assisting employers comply with regulations. This position will not be a political appointment... so its purpose will not change when the party of the administration changes.
She also announced a new toll-free call center for the entire Department of Labor -- one stop shopping for information. You may never need the toll free number, at least to reach us in MSHA. We already have a close working relationship, and you know how to reach MSHA when you need to. But all over this country are employers and employees who may be unclear about their responsibilities or the services available to them. And there has never been one central number they could call. That need is now being met by the Department of Labor.
And Secretary Chao emphasized the service does not have "Caller ID." So no one will ever be fined for asking a question!
That call center is another indication of how seriously we are taking compliance assistance.
In MSHA, we are making compliance assistance an integral part of every mine visit and every activity. We have started providing new types of training to our health, safety and compliance specialists, designed to enhance their professionalism and their ability to do more than just write violations. We are teaching them how to analyze a mine's record before they make a visit, how to identify root causes of problems, understanding the human factor, and how to communicate most effectively with both management and miners. We are working to make all of our employees well-rounded health and safety professionals.
Earlier this year we responded to the upturn in fatal accidents with a special effort designed to, "Focus on Safe Work." Our full range of specialists, trainers, and technical support personnel went to more than 10,000 operations and talked directly with more than 150,000 miners about recent accidents. We also mailed out informational packets and put specific accident solutions on our web site.
And, each of our districts is focusing special compliance assistance on mines with special safety concerns. We're working together with mine operators and miners at these operations to create long-lasting improvements in safety performance.
And we are taking steps to make a culture change in MSHA so that compliance assistance will be remain a key aspect of everything the agency does in the future.
Education and training.
Training and compliance assistance need to go hand in hand. Accordingly, we are developing new training materials, revising those that are outdated, and undertaking a complete review of our materials and publications to make sure we meet current needs.
For instance, we are systematically updating all our training films, transferring them to DVD, and developing new programs directly on DVD. We have just released the first of these, on haul roads and dump site berms. And, we are exploring simulators that can assist in training miners in new tasks.
Some of our training materials already have been translated into Spanish, and we are soon going to have MSHA's web site available in Spanish. The process has been started to translate all of our training materials.
We worked with one mine operator to develop a comprehensive training program in health and safety for all of the company's supervisors. This included classroom and hands-on training at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, and follow-up in the mines. This approach has potential to benefit other operations, and we are now starting to work with a second company in a similar way.
And, we're trying new ideas for instance our explosion propagation demonstration that has been on the road taking the safety message to miners throughout the country. And in fact it was used a week or so ago at the mine rescue contest in Green River.
Small mines. Secretary Chao has emphasized the importance of compliance assistance to small businesses, and in all of our activities we are giving special attention to the needs of small mines.
We are developing a "small mine starter kit" to provide everything a small mine operator needs to know about MSHA. This is intended to meet the need of small operators who can feel overwhelmed in trying to sort out what they need from all the available information.
And we are going to open a small mine safety office that will be devoted to assisting the small mine operator.
Use of data. We are working to make data more easily available to individual companies on their own operations.
In response to requests, we have placed data prominently on our web site concerning the most frequently cited violations in each sector of the mining industry. We're now developing compliance tips to go with them.
We're also looking at ways to better identify mines with outstanding safety and health processes that can serve as models for the industry.
Regulatory issues were another major topic at stakeholder meetings and, I am sure, are of concern to you as well.
Last year, we shortened the list of rulemaking projects on our semi-annual regulatory agenda. We did this because many items had been on the list for years, without progress. We are including fewer regulatory items, and we intend to give them our concentrated attention.
If we take action on a rulemaking, it will represent a real need. There has to be a real problem, and rulemaking has to be the most appropriate solution. Full-scale rulemaking is a lengthy, complex process that demands significant resources. We will certainly pursue rulemaking when justified, but it will not be our automatic first resort.
At the same time, when we do undertake rulemaking, we will always ask for and thoughtfully consider input from our stakeholders in order to develop the most effective and workable rules for protecting miners' safety and health.
So far as possible we also should work towards general agreement, towards rulemaking that all parties can accept as necessary and practical.
Finally, every rulemaking project needs to have compliance assistance as an integral part of the process.
As an example, let me mention our HazCom rule which is being published today in the Federal Register. As you know, that rule was published late in the year 2000 as an "interim final rule." In 2001, we reopened the rulemaking record and scheduled an additional seven public hearings to make sure there was ample opportunity for public comment on the rule before it became effective.
The rule published today reflects the input we received and has some significant differences from the original "interim final" rule.
We also paid special attention to the special needs of small mines. The effective date for most mines is three months from now, but for the smallest mines-- those with five employees or fewer-- the effective date is 9 months from now.
We have already developed some training and compliance assistance materials about HazCom. More are on the way. We will soon be scheduling informational workshops throughout the Nation to assist mine operators with these new standards.
Of interest in the coal sector, we've already completed rulemaking on high-voltage longwalls, which protects miners while removing the need for mine operators to file a petition for modification. Within this year we also expect to publish a proposed rule on the use of belt air to ventilate working sections. We're continuing to look at the issue of dust control plans and compliance sampling for respirable coal mine dust, and are planning to reopen the record on these issues.
Of interest to the metal and nonmetal sector, we are taking a close look at our current asbestos standard , as recommended by the Department of Labor's Inspector General, and have been holding public meetings around the country to get input on that subject.
In addition, we are taking another look at a possible new rule to allow mine equipment to be tested for approval purposes by independent labs. We also are engaged in an extensive, long-term effort to review existing regulations and policies in line with the President's goals. The aim there is to identify provisions that are outdated, redundant, unnecessary or otherwise require change.
These are some of our top regulatory concerns for the coming year, and we really want your input and input from the whole mining community.
As I said earlier, organizations like yours will play a key role in enhancing miner health and safety. At this time I would like to engage your organization as a long-term partner in the effort to get to the next level in mine safety and health.
I want to thank those of you who exemplify health and safety excellence. You are showing the way to others. Those mines that do well in safety always have one thing in common: they make safety a value. This is a priceless quality.
It is one thing to have information about how to keep mines safe and healthy. And we are working very hard to make that information available throughout the mining industry. But information is not enough. There has to be a habit of doing the safe thing, a habit so ingrained that safety has become a value.
Its like putting on your seatbelt every time you get in your car. You do that without thought. It's natural and you do it because you value your own safety.
That's the attitude we need to see expressed every day, at every mine site, on every shift, by every person.
That is the human element we need, and it goes far beyond just information about how to do it right.
It is also a value that needs to come from the top from those of you who are leaders of your companies. If you are giving this leadership, from the top down, setting specific safety and health goals and monitoring performance, making it clear that safety and health are part of the triangle of your business success, then you know that it gets results. And you know it's all about results!
You also know that positive safety and health performance has a side-effect a smooth, accident free work process enhances efficiency, productivity, and ultimately profits.
If safety as a value represents a change for the organization, then you know that it also causes resistance. Resistance to change is normal, human and universal but at the same time, persistence gets results.
As I mentioned, we have some concerns that injuries and fatalities in recent years have reached a plateau and, in fact, creeping upwards. But I am by no means discouraged. The elements to get to the next level in safety and health are right in this room. I thank you for your efforts in the past. And, I frankly ask you to continue and even do more.
I want to enlist your help in demonstrating safety and health as a value throughout each of your companies and in the industry as a whole. I hope you will tell others about your successes and share your methods. And I hope you will tell us at MSHA as well.
We will continue to listen. And we will continue to meet regularly with our stakeholders. We need to continue learning from you.
At the same time, I want to ask that all of you act as continuing examples and a touchstone for others in showing what it takes, and what is gained, by making safety a value every hour of every day.
With success we can look forward to lives saved, injuries prevented, a healthier workforce and healthier mining industry. And we'll be able to institutionalize the change we are bringing about -- a change that will move us beyond the traditional work we have done for the past 25 years, a change that will catapult us into the 21st century.
Success in bringing about this change will require everyone's commitment and most importantly, our performance.
So let me close by saying I hope that with the changes we're bringing about, we'll have you saying at the end of our visit, "We're glad you were here."
Thank you, and God bless America.