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Remarks of Assistant Secretary of Labor Dave D. Lauriski
Before the Industrial Minerals Association--North America
Annual Meeting - April 28, 2003
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida


Good morning.

It's a real pleasure to be with you today. Bob, thank you for the invitation. We in MSHA greatly value our strong working relationships with the Industrial Minerals Association and its various member companies. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to visit General Chemical and Solvay Minerals' trona operations near Green River, Wyoming. I learned a great deal from these visits.

We share the same goal: to send every miner home safe and healthy at the end of every working day. Today, our working relationship is set to expand with the signing of a newly arranged alliance agreement between MSHA and the Industrial Minerals Association-North America that will enhance on-the-job safety for workers throughout the industrial minerals industry.

MSHA's Vision, Goals and Plan

The American mining industry clearly is headed in the right direction. The industry has achieved its two safest years on record. After several years of relative stagnation the number of mining fatalities over the past two years dropped to the lowest figure ever.

You can all be proud of your contribution to this achievement. I know you are as determined as we are at MSHA to keep up the momentum as we take the next step toward zero incidents.

MSHA recently entered a new phase. We are working step-by-step, through a detailed plan that has brought a new vision for MSHA to life.

Before developing a plan, we knew there was one way it could work-it had to have the support of our stakeholders and our MSHA employees.

We also knew that to make progress, we needed to increase the results from every hour of time and every dollar of resources that we invested in safety and health. And to accomplish that, we needed to look at the way we use those resources with the goal of making MSHA a better managed agency.

We used input from both our stakeholders and employees throughout the Nation as we developed a plan to accomplish this. Today, we are executing that plan.

Like all Federal agencies MSHA is working under the umbrella of 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 Federal agencies to become: Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao has established a 21st Century Workforce Initiative, the goal of which is to ensure that all American workers have as fulfilling and financially rewarding a career as they aspire to have. It also seeks to make sure that no worker gets left behind in the limitless potential of the dynamic, global economy of this new millenium.

She has also set objectives for safe, healthful, and fair workplaces. She is very involved and supportive of mine safety and health.

Meaningful and measurable performance goals are important to make sure results are achieved. MSHA has adopted specific performance goals to reduce the fatal injury incidence rate by 15% per year and to reduce the all-injury incidence rate 50% below the FY2000 baseline by the end of FY 2005.

We also have established health performance goals, which include: Under the Mine Act, MSHA's mission is to prevent death, injury and illness in the Nation's mining industry. In carrying out that responsibility we should serve as a catalyst for continual improvement in safety and health performance. The control is in your hands, as it should be. We can influence, we can coach and encourage, but we do not control.

In the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, Congress incorporated several tools for the agency to use in order to carry forth its mission. However, for most of the years since 1978, MSHA concentrated on only one of those tools: enforcement.

In the mid-1990's, however, safety progress slowed. As a result, we quickly recognized that MSHA needed to use all the tools provided in the law to move ahead.

A critical element in MSHA's management plans has been and will continue to be a balanced approach to how we do our job that consists of enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance - three elements, equal in importance, and which form our "Triangle of Success."

As I have said many times, that does not mean less enforcement. It means a balanced emphasis on enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance. The Triangle of Success has guided every step of our plan for MSHA.

In line with the President's guidelines, our goals, and the comments of our stakeholders and the principles I have described, we created our roadmap for a 21st Century MSHA.

Our plan provides us with a list of specific objectives and guidelines in every area of MSHA's activity. It provides guidance not only for external issues, but also for internal management issues as well. Accordingly, we set goals for external performance and to reduce MSHA's own employee injury rate and compensation costs. If we are asking industry to do something, we in MSHA need to be willing to do the same things in our own organization.

That plan calls for us to break down barriers that have existed and form new partnerships that can move the U.S. mining industry on the next step to zero.

This is the basis for the alliance agreement we are signing today.

A New MSHA

Today you should be seeing, and from my conversations throughout the mining industry I believe most of you have seen, significant changes in the way we do business in MSHA. Stakeholders like yourselves across this country have given us positive feedback on this proven process.

We developed a Compliance Assistance Plan, which outlines significant increases in compliance assistance activities and establishes specific time frames for accomplishing each initiative in the plan. For instance, during six months of 2002, outreach seminars were conducted at 524 metal and nonmetal mines, with attendance of nearly 35,000 miners.

Inspections

MSHA personnel use incidence rate and violation history data to identify trends at each mine ahead of an inspection. During each inspection they share the trend information with the mine operator. They talk directly with mine employees about hazard recognition, safe work practices, and accident prevention based upon the employees' work activities. They also listen. They perform simple root cause analyses on compliance problems and share them with the employers and employees. And when conducting an incident investigation they use the same measures in order to find ways to prevent recurrence.

Information outreach.

We added the usable data on our Web page. For instance, we added the standards cited for the most frequent citations along with safety tips and best practices. More mine operators and contractors are electronically filing required information with MSHA through our web site. In addition, MSHA's data retrieval system is one of the most frequently visited features.

We are revising and updating all our training materials - using new technology like DVD and web-based interactive training. Materials on MSHA's web page are now available in Spanish - we are translating our materials into Spanish.

We are now providing links on MSHA's web site to mining companies that are willing to share their safety material and best practices. This is a great opportunity for award-winning mines and others to share their techniques for success.

We established a small mines safety and health office.

We started this new office last year with staff borrowed from various branches of MSHA. Its purpose is to address the specialized needs of the approximately 6,500 small mines around the country with 5 or fewer employees.

For the last several years, the fatal injury rate at small mining operations has been more than double the rate for larger mines. If we are going to move forward, we have to enlist these small mines. Accordingly we will provide assistance to small mine operators to help improve their safety and health efforts and embrace safety and health as a value.

The Small Mines Safety and Health Office helps small mines to develop and maintain an effective safety and health program to fit their company's needs. It makes small mine operators aware of other sources of assistance and helps them use these resources. Staff have already visited more nearly 500 small mines around the U.S. Among other activities, they are distributing a starter kit that contains information for obtaining compliance assistance and training, as well as information on basic compliance with regulations. They will maintain regular contacts with small mine operators by telephone, e-mail, fax, letters and follow-up visits. We have received a number of positive comments from mine operators who have told us that this assistance from the Small Mines Office simplifies their safety, health and compliance tasks and is helping to improve health and safety at their operations.

As this new office gains its footing, it will also look to:

--Demonstrate to small mine operators that an investment in safety and health is good business.

--Develop partnerships with small mine stakeholder organizations and jointly sponsor seminars and workshops highlighting the value of effective safety and health programs;

--Develop training materials and information resources on the Internet tailored to small mine operations;

--Identify regulations that create an undue burden on small mine operators and develop alternate ways to provide the same level of protection; and

--Provide the framework to effectively and efficiently manage the compliance assistance efforts of MSHA aimed at helping small mine operators.

The President's proposed FY 2004 budget will establish the Small Mines Safety and Health Office as a formal and lasting entity within the Mine Safety and Health Administration. For FY 2004, President Bush has requested $2.4 million and 21 positions for the office.

Technical assistance

We are working with mining companies throughout the U.S. to address safety and health concerns through technical advances.

In the industrial minerals industry have been working with a number of companies to reduce noise and silica exposures.

For instance, we currently have a demonstration project underway in noise control at a ball mill at one silica operation - a project that has the potential for applications elsewhere in the industry.

Learning from incidents

We have learned from internal management reviews of the agency's activities following two severe incidents-the Martin County coal slurry spill that occurred in October 2000, and the Jim Walter Resources Mine explosion in 2001.

Although these incidents occurred at coal mines, they provided lessons that can be applied throughout MSHA. The purpose of the internal reviews was to conduct a critical self-examination to determine how MSHA management practices could be improved. We have been very open about the fact that weaknesses were uncovered and have shared the results with the public.

As a result MSHA is making important improvements in its management process, including:

1. A nationwide mentoring program for new inspectors and supervisors;

2. Revisions in the agency's inspection manual;

3. Additional training for enforcement personnel on appropriate levels of enforcement; and

4. Increased management oversight at all levels of the organization.

We also are learning from success.

I'm sure all of you remember last summer's rescue nine miners from the flooded Quecreek Mine in Pennsylvania. This event focused the attention and recognition of the whole nation, and indeed the whole world, on all that is best in the American mining industry.

As a result of this incident, we have focused on ways to better identify the location of old mine workings that can create a hazard for miners. We held a technical symposium that identified some promising new technologies that are being further explored.

While the publicity in this instance was unusual, the dedication and hard work of the rescuers was typical of the entire U.S. mining industry -- including members of the industrial minerals sector such as FMC, whose FMC1 team from the Westvaco Mine in Green River took top honors in last year's National Mine Rescue and First Aid contest. And what about the U.S. team, made up of employees from all the different near Green River, winning the International competition!

And the President recognized that when he visited Somerset, Pennsylvania, after the rescue to meet the miners and rescuers.

"I truly believe," the President said, "the effort put in will serve as an example for others in a time of crisis."

And so do all of you when you work to prevent, and prepare for, emergencies.

Quecreek also provided an experience of success like no other. We need to remember that. And we need to avail ourselves of every opportunity to recognize success in health and safety, and learn from it.

For instance, we are currently reviewing the Sentinels of Safety program to determine how it could be updated and provide additional ways to recognize safe performance - for instance, how we could recognize safety in mill operations.

In addition, we have recently established a committee of U.S. stone operations, led by a top Sentinels of Safety winner, to make recommendations on best practices for safety and health, which we will then share throughout the industry.

Alliance Agreements

Finally, in a significant milestone, has begun to establish innovative and far-reaching alliance agreements to promote the health and safety of miners in specific sectors of the mining industry. Today I am truly honored to be signing such an agreement with the IMA-NA.

Under this agreement we will use our collective expertise to help foster a culture of prevention by sharing best practices and technical knowledge. We will jointly cooperate in achieving common mine safety and health performance goals with objective performance metrics. We will work together in analyzing safety and health trends, developing best practices, evaluating exemplary engineering controls, creating training and education programs, and conducting informational outreach. An implementation team from both organizations will meet and develop a specific plan of action, and will meet at least quarterly to review progress.

This is an innovative approach in the mining industry. I'd like to thank Bob Glenn and the staff of IMA-NA for all their work in crafting this alliance with us. And I applaud your organization for joining with us today to promote miner safety and health with this a agreement. All of you have reason to be proud of the agreement and what it stands for: you are making safety a value throughout your organization.

Measures and Results

Now let's look at the bottom line: results.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. MSHA began operating in March 1978. As you know, the agency was molded into its present form by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

Since then, mining fatalities in this country have declined from 242 in 1978 to the record low of 67 last year-a decrease of 72 percent.

In the past two years, we have seen the results of our plan for MSHA. The American mining industry has just achieved its two safest years on record. After several years of relative stagnation, the number of mine fatalities dropped to a new record-low of 72 in 2001 and then to 67 last year.

That means we sent 18 more miners home safely to their families in a safe and healthy condition over the last two years.

Comparing the two-year period of 1999-2000 to the two-year period of 2001-2002, mining fatalities declined by 21 percent.

Injuries also are on the decline. For the same two-year period, non-fatal lost-day injuries at all mines declined 13 percent.

MSHA's inspection completion rate, at nearly 88 percent in the metal and nonmetal sector, is higher than at any time in the recent past, and we are spending more time at each mine, with results. In fact, out site event time has increased by 31 percent since 2000.

Looking Ahead

Let me mention some items for the future that may be of particular interest to you.

First, MSHA's budget. MSHA's budget for FY 2003 provides $260 million plus $13 million for special projects--$10 million for research on old mine workings and digitizing maps, and $3 million for impoundment research in West Virginia.

For FY 2004, President Bush has requested an increase of $12.5 million over the FY 2003 request for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That's a signal of the importance this Administration places on the well-being of American miners.

The proposed budget for 2004 would add 20 more safety and health specialist positions for metal and nonmetal mines and 35 positions for coal mine safety and health. And, as I previously mentioned, it also requests $2.4 million and 21 positions for the Office of Small Mines Safety and Health within the Educational Policy and Development Program.

The second item that may be of interest to you is our continuous improvement philosophy. You can expect to see continuing emphasis on compliance assistance, including more updated and innovative training materials and more services added to our web site. Our web site is undergoing continued re-design based on comments we receive from users.

Third is a review of inspection procedures. We're looking at ways to efficiently use our time during mine visits to get even more value and results. We want to focus our efforts at mines or areas of mines where we can effect the best return on our investment.

Fourth is improved training for MSHA personnel. MSHA has some of the finest mine safety and health professionals in the world. And we are encouraging all MSHA personnel to continue their professional development on an ongoing basis.

For the past several months MSHA has been working with a new type of job task analysis in conjunction with the Naval Weapons Center. The system can be used to break down the most complex jobs into their component tasks. With the full participation of all personnel involved in a job, this type of task analysis has proven highly effective in identifying deficiencies in work procedures and training so they can be corrected.

Typically, the employees and immediate supervisors using this system have come up with their own solutions. We are also using the system with MSHA personnel, and expect to make improvements in their training that will help them become even more effective. You'll be hearing more about it in the future.

A "culture of prevention"

There is a key phrase in the alliance agreement that we will sign with your organization: "a culture of prevention."

We need to make safety a value - a way of doing things where safety is central and is done without thought.

We need to maintain the attitude that no incident is routine-that every incident, whether or not it results in an injury-is a message from which we can learn.

And, as I have said, we need to learn from success, not just from our failures.

Those who personify excellence in mine safety and health have shown what can be done with teamwork, commitment and determination - to achieve our common goal-to send every miner home safe and healthy at the end of every working day.

Working together-and working with innovative safety agreements like our new safety and health alliance-we can reach that goal.

Let's keep our momentum going. Thank you for your time, keep up your good work, and thank you for what you do America's economy and for American families.