Dave D. Lauriski
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
Before the 2003 TRAM Conference and Mine Instructor Seminar
Beckley, West Virginia.
October 14, 2003
[Graphic 1, MSHA logo] Thank you, Jeff, for that introduction.
It is truly a pleasure to be with you this year. Pat Brady and staff have put together what promises to be an extraordinary conference. This follows a very successful Western TRAM meeting, held in Reno, Nevada, this June.
I would like to thank all of our distinguished speakers, who among them are offering workshops this year covering some 60 safety and health topics. That's impressive! Thanks, also, to the 24 organizations that - in addition to MSHA -- are presenting exhibits this year. And, I would like to thank the 17 entrants in this year's training materials competition.
Finally, a word of appreciation to all attendees. Some 410 trainers and others throughout this nation's mining industry have invested several days out of a busy work schedule in order to be here. It's great to see so many of our State grant partners here, some of whom are giving presentations, and other speakers are here thanks to recommendations from State grantees. And it's great to have our NIOSH partners here also.
All of you are true partners in the effort to make safety a value throughout the mining industry. Thank you for attending.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the legislation that created MSHA. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which set the basic framework for all that we do in the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
During this past year, all of us in MSHA have reviewed the achievements of the past 25 years and what remains to be done. As part of that process, I've visited every one of our 17 district offices. I've also met with our field staff in Technical Support, Education and Training and other activities. For example, just last week I met with employees at our Coal Mine Safety and Health district 8 and 10 offices in Evansville, Indiana, and Madisonville, Kentucky.
I have been doing this because I've never believed that mine safety and health can be managed from a desk in Washington. I go to see for myself, to talk, listen, and answer any questions that employees may have, because MSHA's employees should never feel that the Assistant Secretary is some remote, unknown functionary who hands down directions but is out of touch with the real world.
[Graphic 2, mine visits] The same is true of miners and mine operators. Whenever I travel, I've also been visiting mines as often as possible. When you get out into workplaces regularly, you can't get lost in concepts and abstractions. I've really appreciated the opportunities to visit these operations to observe, listen to miners and managers, and find out how things are working in practice. And I encourage all MSHA managers to do the same.
Last week I visited Ohio County Coal's Big Run mine in Western Kentucky. There's a mine that has cut its injury rate by over 80 percent in a period of 16 months, and now has an injury rate well below the national average. I've been to exemplary operations in a wide variety of sectors, including underground and surface coal mines, underground salt, trona, surface stone, sand and gravel operations.
Every operation is different, but they have had one thing in common - the miners and mine operators have been great. At every one of them, we heard good things about what MSHA is doing. In fact, I'm proud to say the old saying, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" -- is not sounding like such a joke to these miners and mine operators any more.
What's behind this? It's not a coincidence that MSHA is systematically working through a road map developed two years ago with input from our stakeholders. That roadmap has led to a planned and organized process of change in the safety and health culture in MSHA, and that has encouraged changes in the mining industry.
First and foremost, we have made safety a value throughout MSHA - the single standard by which we decide on every choice we make - and we've encouraged mine operators and miners to do the same.
We have targeted goals including a 15 percent reduction in fatal injury rates and a 50 percent reduction in all-injury rates over 5 years.
[Graphic 3, Triangle of Success] In reaching for those goals, we have recognized that the 1977 law provided three fundamental tools for safety and health: enforcement, education and training, and technical support. Today, we are making balanced use of all the tools available to us, in what we call our Triangle of Success.
[Graphic 4, inspector at mine] Compliance assistance is integral to this initiative, and we have made compliance assistance an integral part of everything we do. It is incorporated into each element of the Triangle of Success.
We are all one team -- "One MSHA." And the response has not only been gratifying -- it can be measured in what we do. And, we have branched out to create new kinds of partnerships for prevention.
[Graphic 5, fatalities since 1910] At the same time, the mining industry has just achieved its safest two years on record.
- [Graphic 6, fatalities over 10 years] Total fatalities declined to 72 in 2001 and then to 67 last year.
- [Graphic 7, fatality rate for 10 years] The incidence rate of mine fatalities declined to a new low.
- [Graphic 8, rate of all injuries] The overall rate of injuries also declined.
- The rate of fatal injuries for the first two quarters of this year is down from the first two quarters of 2002.
- The same is true of the all-injury rate across the mining industry.
- Among others, PCS Phosphate Company of Aurora, North Carolina, worked a truly remarkable 484,949 employee-hours last year without one lost-time injury.
- RAG Coal's Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyoming, nearly equaled that with 472,386 injury-free hours.
- Another leader was the Mississippi Potash West Mine, near Carlsbad, New Mexico, with 263,371 hours free of lost-time injuries - and this is an underground mine.
Nevertheless, we must avoid becoming complacent.
Accident Prevention Outreach Programs
We continue to track safety trends throughout the mining industry in order to quickly respond. Outreach programs use compliance assistance and all of the resources in the Triangle of Success to focus attention where it is most needed. We refresh and refocus as needed. Within MSHA, an Accident Prevention Committee with representatives from all of MSHA's major activities monitors the trends and helps to select topics for special focus.
[Graphic 9, Awareness Day sticker] For instance, we decided to declare the first anniversary of the Quecreek mine rescue, July 28, the first ever "National Coal Mine Safety Awareness Day." The purpose of this event was to raise the awareness level among coal miners and mine operators concerning hazards and the recent trend in mining fatalities nationwide.
[Graphic 10, coal miners] MSHA sent over 600 enforcement, training and technical support personnel to 1,500 active coal mines in the nation to speak directly with miners, mine operators and contractors urging them to use safe work procedures and focus on potential hazards.
The accident record gave us special concerns about maintenance and repair of mining equipment, and the use, transport, and storage of explosives. Safety information on these and other topics was tailored based on the nature of work and conditions at each mining site. At the same time, we placed information on our web site to provide advice and guidance for avoiding mining hazards.
At 3 o'clock today, those of you who are interested will have the opportunity to take part in a real-life demonstration of webcasting, moderated by Deputy Assistant Secretary John Correll and Metal and Nonmetal Administrator Bob Friend, back in Arlington, Va., using the Internet to hold a real-time discussion with stakeholders about metal and nonmetal accident trends. This will be the second such webcast, the first occurring for the coal sector so we could discuss rising trends in fatalities.
Coal mine hazards deserve additional attention now that winter is approaching.
The annual Winter Alert campaign has just kicked off. As you probably know, This annual campaign runs from October through March, emphasizes increased vigilance in the face of the additional potential hazards that accompany the season.
It is imperative for all of us to concentrate on the lines of defense against mine explosions: Ventilation, examinations, rock dusting and control of ignition sources. This year's campaign theme, "Focus on Examinations," puts special emphasis on the importance of thorough pre-shift and onshift checks. In addition, a newly released publication titled, "Don't Let Winter Put You on Ice" addresses hazards specific to surface facilities and prep plants.
Throughout the Winter Alert campaign, our inspectors and training specialists will emphasize awareness of winter hazards. They will distribute decals and posters displaying the safety messages. They also will provide compliance assistance in developing solutions to health and safety problems that crop up during the colder months.
We hope that you will also focus on these hazards to help make this an explosion and fire free winter - and a winter free of seasonally related injuries.
[Graphic 11, metal and nonmetal miners] Meanwhile, we also track the trends in our other major mining sector, the metal and nonmetal mining industry. This sector has been improving on last year's safety records -- but we don't take anything for granted.
Even as this sector has been showing improvement, we have been closely examining the overall record for trends that might indicate a need for attention.
For instance, fatalities that have occurred this year have shown that:
- Supervisors were involved in a disproportionate number of accidents in the metal and nonmetal mining industry.
- About one-third of the miners to date had less than 6 months of experience in the task they were performing.
- Many miners were engaged in new or uncommon tasks.
- In the majority of fatal accidents, other miners were present. This suggested that fellow employees might be able to help prevent some accidents if they observe a hazard and speak out.
They encouraged supervisors to carefully consider their own safety in planning and carrying out a job. They also encouraged all miners to speak out if they observe a hazard. Receiving a visit from a MSHA field office supervisor caught the attention of many mine operators and miners, who expressed their appreciation.
For some reason the month of October has often seen higher-than-average numbers of metal and nonmetal mining fatalities. Unfortunately, the first day of October this year was marked by two metal and nonmetal mining fatalities, one in Alabama and one in Colorado. One victim was a superintendent and both accidents involved mobile equipment, one tipping into a mine pond.
The webcast taking place later today is part of MSHA's response to these events, as well as our general concern about the general trend in metal and nonmetal mining fatalities. In addition, MSHA enforcement personnel have contacted small mine operators by telephone, MSHA has posted information on its web site, and we are distributing compliance assistance material to focus on these hazards.
The focus continues to be on supervisors and maintenance activities, as well as small mines. We encourage you to use these materials and join us in working to send more miners home safely.
Meanwhile, we are already planning for our second series of "Spring Thaw" workshops for the crushed, stone, sand and gravel sector. These are one of our toughest audiences to reach with the safety message because they are widely dispersed in every State.
As you know, they are mostly small to medium in size, they are often seasonal, and some of them even consist of mobile plants. Yet, there are significant safety concerns at these operations ranging from machine guarding to electricity, haulage to heat stress. Employee turnover can be high, which increases the need for training. This year we started holding local "Spring Thaw Workshops" in partnership with the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, just before the start of the high-production season. The local seminars incorporate talks from fellow mine operators as well as MSHA inspectors, trainers and other specialists. The seminars were so popular that we are planning an expanded series in every district, starting in February.
Education and Training Initiatives
Next, let's look a little more closely at the Education and Training angle of the Triangle of Success. We are partnering with a great many organizations in this area, from operator associations to the Iron Workers and Operating Engineers, of course the States, and other Federal agencies including the U.S. Navy.
[Graphic 12, "spider"] One of our most exciting projects is a process to improve job training. The process is an adaptation of a successful U.S. Navy program that uses enhanced Job Task Analysis (JTA) to develop more effective and efficient training programs. MSHA, the mining industry, equipment manufacturers, and the U.S. Navy jointly adapted the process for the mining industry. Mines that have used it indicate that it produced the most thorough and practical approach to improving production, maintenance, and safety. MSHA also is using the new process to improve training for our own mine inspectors.
There are two key elements to Job Task Analysis. One is the use of computer graphics that make the analysis very visual and easy to grasp and enhances group participation. The workshop team can see the analyses of tasks and subtasks being built on-screen and can discuss them and make instant changes. This would not have been possible in the past.
[Graphic 13, mine classroom] The second key element is the human element. It brings in all of the individuals who are involved with a task to conduct the analysis as a group. It is absolutely the opposite of a top-down approach. The group includes all those at the operation who are currently performing the job, others who directly interact with these employees as they perform the task, the supervisor, and in some cases others such as manufacturers and suppliers. The process takes about a day. It ends with a complete task breakdown, a ranking of tasks by importance, and an outline of the training required.
MSHA training specialists have conducted 12 of these Job Task Analysis workshops, including the first such workshop to be conducted in Spanish. Once the process was set out for them, every group has worked intuitively with this software tool and has completed their task eagerly and with minimal guidance.
Because of employee involvement, they have ownership of the final product. The results are exactly tailored to the mining operation. We also have heard anecdotes that labor-management problems decreased in some cases.
After one workshop, a truck driver tooted his horn before putting the truck in gear, and the mine manager commented to the MSHA trainer, "I've never known the guy to do that before he participated in the workshop!"
To help make this compliance assistance available to everyone, we've placed an interactive Job Task Analysis page on MSHA's web site. I hope many of you will take advantage of the detailed presentation on Job Task Analysis later in the conference.
We're currently exploring another approach with the Navy, which is called Team Coordination Training. This process takes 10 to 20 minutes of a work team's time, much like a safety meeting. Unlike most safety meetings, it is a facilitated group process in which everyone provides input.
The concept makes sense. As General Patton once said, "Plans should be made by those who will carry them out."
The Navy has reported reductions on job errors greater than 50 percent using this process. Repeat errors, reportedly, have been reduced to almost zero.
We are exploring how the process of Team coordination Training can apply in the mining industry, and we'll be looking for partners to help try it out at mines in the months to come.
Meanwhile, we're working together with about 30 mining companies and with NIOSH on a project to increase the use of personal protective equipment by all mine operators and miners. Failure to use personal protective equipment is evident in a significant number of accidents. It's clear that lives can be saved and injuries and illnesses prevented if everyone in the mining industry properly uses this equipment.
[Graphic 14, PPE poster] We call the current project, "Let's get it on!" It's a program we hope can convince all mine operators and miners of the importance of personal protective equipment. Right now, we're testing the program at mines in two MSHA districts, cutting across both the coal and the metal/nonmetal sectors.
Nine types of personal protective equipment were identified for what is planned to be a three-year effort. MSHA and NIOSH jointly developed compliance assistance materials concerning the first three: life jackets, seat belts, and fall protection. The materials include a checklist for the mine operator, for each occupation at the mine, to help the operator track where protective equipment is needed, available, or in use.
Another aspect that is a bit different: we talked with miners and mine operators ahead of the program to gauge the existing attitudes and practices concerning PPE. Currently, we are distributing the materials and inspectors are presenting safety talks at the participating mines. Afterwards, the next step will be to revisit the mines and again gauge attitudes and behavior. The result should tell us if the program is on the right track to make a real difference, and allow course corrections to be made.
After evaluation at the test mines, we expect to roll out the entire program to the industry at large.
Our small mine safety office is another outreach effort that involves training.
As we all know, small businesses are in a different situation than large companies. A large company is likely to have an in-house safety department, a management plan, and resources dedicated specifically to safety and health.
This year MSHA established a Small Mines Office to address the specialized needs of nearly 7,000 small mines. MSHA defines small mines as any mining operation with five or fewer employees.
This office has 19 employees currently "on loan" from other portions of MSHA, but if the President's proposed FY 2004 budget is approved, it will soon become a formal and permanent entity.
To date the staff of the Small Mines Office has personally visited more than 1,300 small operations. They have distributed our "Starter Kit," containing all the requirements a small mine operator needs to know in a convenient, easy-to-use format. They offer small mine operators simplified fill-in-the-blank model forms to help them develop training plans and meet other paperwork requirements.
And, they are just getting started. Our plans call for continuing contacts, for the development of additional training materials, and for finding other ways to address their specialized needs.
[Graphic 15, small mine thank you letter] Already, the results have been, in the words of one of our specialists, "heartwarming." When an MSHA specialist calls to make an appointment at one small mine, and ends up with other mine operators asking to join in, that's evidence of success. When the MSHA office receives calls asking, "Can I have a copy of that notebook you guys are giving out?" that's evidence of success. When we get letters of thanks, that's evidence of success.
So far, all indications are that this class of very small businesses is eager for assistance and benefiting from the attention of an organization specifically dedicated to their safety and health needs.
Meanwhile, we do not forget that our partnerships with the States continue to play a critical role. This year MSHA awarded $7.8 million in grants to 48 States and the Navajo Nation. That total included four States that had not benefited from the program in recent years.
[Graphic 16, Triangle with E&T highlighted] Training plays an essential role in the Triangle of Success, and the State Grants programs, tailored to the specific needs of each State's miners, play an essential role in the safety achievements of the mining industry. We in MSHA know and greatly value the role of these programs.
Last year, some 215,000 miners received safety and health training through the State grant programs. In addition, the State Grant programs have been invaluable as partners in focusing attention on current safety trends and needs. We look forward to continuing these relationships and working more closely in the year to come.
Other Initiatives of Interest
MSHA has a number of other initiatives ongoing that would be of interest to trainers.
[Graphic 17, Tri-State area] For instance, some of you are familiar with the Tri-State Initiative, which addresses coal mine safety and health concerns in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. Based here at the Academy, this initiative functions as a catalyst between the districts and the state agencies in promoting safety and health. There is a display at this conference.
[Graphic 18, truck accidents] Hazards to truck drivers have been an early focus because trucks have been involved in significant number of accidents for years. Most recently there were two fatalities at a surface coal mine here in Southern West Virginia when a large haulage truck ran over a van transporting miners to their work site.
Tri-State Initiative activities have included training truck drivers and mechanics how to do pre-operational checks. The office also developed a Truck Haulage CD that illustrates some of the safety deficiencies, such as defective brakes, that are commonly found on truck inspections, together with accident prevention suggestions. Currently, the group is developing a poster that will incorporate best practices for preventing truck haulage accidents.
[Graphic 19, home page] Information technology is proving to be a great boon in outreach and training because it has the efficiency of mass communication, yet allows the message to be tailored to a wide variety of recipients. We take advantage of its efficiency, and it is even more powerful when paired with face-to-face communication at the mine sites. While some of our small mines are unable to take advantage of information technology, elsewhere we are using this technology to leverage our communications wherever possible.
Every teacher knows that students learn best when they receive the lesson through more than one channel. In the same way, MSHA combines e-communications with face-to-face visits and compliance assistance to make sure the message will get through.
Mine operators who do have e-mail now get safety alerts by e-mail from our district offices. We have an improved ListServ on our web site where readers can sign up for alerts whenever certain types of documents are posted. In other training materials, we now have interactive training programs, Web-based as well as on DVD. The web site, and increasingly more training materials, are available in Spanish. Today there are a total of nine MSHA forms that can be filed electronically -- including Part 46 and Part 48 training plans.
Another powerful tool we have begun to use this year consists of Alliance Agreements. By pairing with mining and related safety and health organizations, we can leverage our resources.
Because of differences in our industries and our legislation, MSHA's Alliance Agreements take a somewhat different approach than OSHA's. But they have a similar purpose, to create a partnership that will result in better protection for employees' safety and health.
[Graphic 21, safety pledge] The first agreement we signed this year was with the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association. This agreement has already resulted in development of:
- Specific, shared goals for accident reduction.
- A voluntary safety pledge for association members.
- An analysis of injuries in this segment of the industry that we are sharing with all stakeholders.
- Development of best practices in areas identified as posing particular concerns.
[Graphic 22, SOSA program] The Alliance with the National Safety Council will include public education about the dangers of exploring active and abandoned mines. The NSC will take a higher-profile role in "Stay Out - Stay Alive." Conclusion
[Graphic 22, miner with children] To sum up, training in general, and the work of our State grant partners in particular, is essential in the effort to reach the next step in safety and health. You are safety leaders, and your leadership makes the difference.
Your work is making safety a recognized value -- a value to miners and their families, to the company, and to the bottom line.
Your work is creating a culture of prevention. Everyone's actions will reinforce safety when prevention is part of the culture.
And above all, your work is moving the mining industry measurably closer to our ultimate goal: to have every miner go home safe and healthy at the end of every shift, and at the end of his or her career.
Keep up your good work, thank you, and we hope this conference will be a value to you in your important work during the months to come. [Graphic 23, MSHA logo]