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Remarks by John R. Correll
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
Before the 2003 Florida Mine Safety and Health Conference
Awards Banquet
Ocala, Florida
December 10, 2003


Introduction

Thank you, Ben, for that kind introduction. It's a great pleasure to be with all of you this evening. There have been great strides in mining safely, and tonight's award winners are showing the way to even greater success.

MSHA - Overview

As you may know, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the law that created our Agency. Accordingly, I'd like to take just a few minutes and place tonight's event in a larger perspective.

MSHA impacts more than 14,000 mining operations in the United States, which produce over 80 mineral commodities and employs more than 300,000 miners. That includes more than 225 operations here in Florida, employing almost 7,000 miners.

By the way, those of us on MSHA's top staff believe it's very important to get out into mines as often as possible --"where the rubber meets the road." I look forward to touring Florida Rock's cement operation near here tomorrow, and I am grateful for the invitation.

The Nation's mining industry recently finished its safest two years on record. The overall rate of injuries also has declined. It is encouraging to report that part-year statistics indicate the mining industry is on track for further reductions this year. All of you who are here today can be proud of your role in that success. The outstanding safety records of tonight's awardees and many other American mines show what can be done.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration is becoming still more effective under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Dave Lauriski. As you heard from Mike Davis earlier today, we have made "safety a value" throughout MSHA - the single standard by which we decide on every choice we make.

The Triangle of Success and its Components

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. We are making balanced use of the tools available to us, in what we call our Triangle of Success.

Compliance assistance is integral to this initiative, and we have made it part of everything we do. It is included in each element of the Triangle of Success.

First, enforcement:

Our inspection completion rate is at its highest in many years. We spend more time at each mine than in the past. We are improving the consistency of our inspections.

At the same time, our inspections now involve more than just identifying violations. Before inspecting, our compliance specialists review the mine's past records. During the inspection they talk with management and the miners to help identify root causes for violations. In this way, future violations and future injuries can be reduced. We want the mining community to succeed in its safety and health efforts.

As another way to assist mine operators in meeting requirements, we have developed a pocket calendar for the year 2004 we will distribute to metal and nonmetal mine operators nationwide. The calendar includes safety tips and reference information. It also provides a checklist of workplace examination items and pages to record examinations. We expect that small mine operators will find it especially useful.

Next, education and training:

We've stepped up education and training outreach in new ways. There are so many examples that it's hard to choose, but I'll mention a few.

MSHA has established a Small Mines Office to address the specialized needs of nearly 7,000 small mines - including more than 60 small mines here in Florida.

As you know, small mines present unique challenges. Small mines, with five or fewer employees. have fatality rates above the national average. They may be intermittent, may not have access to computers or MSHA web site, and sometimes are not even aware they have health and safety requirements.

To date, the staff of the new Small Mines Office has personally visited more than 1,600 small operations. They have provided the operators with MSHA's "Starter Kit" and are carrying out follow-ups. The Small Mine Safety Office also has posted 20 "Tool Box Talks" on MSHA's web site.

We have started holding what we call "Spring Thaw Workshops" around the country, in partnership with the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association. These come before the start of the high-production season, and include talks from fellow mine operators as well as MSHA specialists. We're preparing now for the next round of workshops.

(Of course, here in Florida where it doesn't freeze much, people might wonder about the name "Spring Thaw." In Florida I guess we could call them "Spring Break" workshops -- and maybe attract a crowd of college kids!)

Our Education and Training activity has a new program called "Training Makes A Difference." It focuses assistance on selected mine to help them turn around their incidence rates.

Job Task Analysis is another technique that our education and training specialists can bring to mines. Miners and supervisors jointly build the analysis of hazards, prevention measures, and training needed to complete a job safely.

Because of employee involvement, they have ownership of the final product. The results are exactly tailored to the mining operation. To help make this compliance assistance available to everyone, we've placed an interactive Job Task Analysis page on MSHA's web site.

Of course MSHA continues to work closely with its partners in the dozens of state mine safety programs, including here in Florida. I hope you know that the Florida Mine Safety and Health Training Program is especially noted for developing training videos that are used for miner training throughout the Nation. Ben and his program truly make a difference.

The third component of the triangle is technical assistance.

MSHA has stepped up technical assistance to individual mines and groups of mines that may have particular safety and health concerns, as well as exploring innovative technologies.

For instance, Mike and his staff, together with our Technical Support personnel, have been actively working with a group of granite mines in Georgia on the control of noise exposures.

As another example, we have been working with a manufacturer and a mining company to evaluate a projectile system for breaking up jams in rock crushers.

That's a quick summary of the triangle - enforcement, education and training, and technical support. We are making a balanced use of them, and including compliance assistance in every part.

Recent developments

This year, the Nation's metal and nonmetal mining industry is possibly headed for a new low fatality record. There are 23 metal and nonmetal fatalities on record today, compared with 38 at this time last year. The historic total for past years was 30.

To help the mining industry hold that line, and set new records, we've been offering current information and compliance assistance on specific safety trends. We recently held the nationwide outreach program called "Speak Out and Make a Difference." Field office supervisors visited metal and nonmetal mines and spoke with thousands of supervisors and miners throughout the Nation including here in Florida. They talked about how to address hazards and provided compliance assistance materials. They encouraged supervisors to carefully consider their own safety. They encouraged miners to speak out if they observe a hazard.

October has often seen higher-than-average numbers of metal and nonmetal mining fatalities. That's why we recently hosted an October webcast for our partners in the metal and nonmetal mining sector. We used the Internet to hold a real-time discussion with stakeholders about mine accident trends.

Several hundred people called in -- mine operators, miners, mine inspectors, and representatives from trade associations, labor associations, state agencies, and state grantees. Maybe some of you were involved - I hope so. We hope to use this approach more often..

Now, as the holiday season approaches, we are reaching out to remind miners and mine operators to stay focused on safety. With all of the joyous and hectic aspects of the season, it's easy to become distracted, even on the job. We need to resist that because we want all miners to get home safely for the holidays and every day.

Mine operators will be getting weekly letters from Assistant Secretary Lauriski from now through the end of the year, containing safety reminders. Please share these with miners and supervisors throughout your operations.

Information Technology

I've mentioned our web site resources. Information technology is great tool to get input from our stakeholders throughout the nation, and to distribute information.

Mike Davis and other district managers regularly e-mail safety alerts to mine operators. You can also sign up on a ListServ on MSHA's web site to receive alerts whenever certain types of documents are posted.

There are now 16 different MSHA forms that can be filed online, reducing paperwork.

And, increasingly, we are moving to interactive training programs, Web-based or on DVD. The web site and many training materials also are now available in Spanish.

Innovative partnerships

Even beyond what new technology can do for us is the principle of partnership. This is truly a new era of partnerships for prevention in mine safety and health.

We are strengthening existing partnerships. The Holmes Safety Association is one of these traditional partnerships, dating back before 1920. Mike Davis and his staff have done a tremendous job promoting the organization in the Southeastern District. You'll hear more on that subject tomorrow. I'm delighted that a move is on to establish a new Council here in Florida.

We are establishing new forms of partnership. MSHA is now entering into alliance agreements with mining and related safety and health organizations. MSHA's Alliance Agreements take a somewhat different approach than OSHA's, because of differences in our industries and our legislation. But they have a similar purpose. We signed four alliance agreements this year.

One of the most exciting aspects of these agreements is the commitment to specific results and to specific activities that will benefit safety and health in the industry as a whole.

Our Alliance Agreement with the National Safety Council also will expand the existing "Stay Out-Stay Alive" partnership program, which educates the public about the dangers of playing around active or inactive mines. National Safety Council will leverage our resources to reach young people and parents nationwide.

Even before signing the Alliance Agreement we were working with the National Safety Council to prepare for the World Safety Congress that takes place in Orlando in September 2005. It promises to be an extraordinary event that will be "just down the road here," so to speak. We hope you'll consider participating. "The World is Coming to Orlando," as the brochure puts it. We hope you'll be there.

The innovations are at the district level, too.. For instance, the Southeastern District has pioneered a new partnership between the Portland Cement Association, a manufacturer, and MSHA to focus on safety aspects of coal transport system. And I know Mike and his staff have other partnerships on the drawing board.

Another exciting development in partnerships for prevention got its start here in Florida.

In a pilot program this year, we asked one of the 2002 Sentinels of Safety winners to lead a committee of stakeholders in developing recommended best practices for the quarrying sector. The leader of the committee was Imerys Carbonates, LLC, which had the winning quarry in 2002, Imerys Sylacauga Operations in Alabama. Three Florida quarry operations agreed to serve on the committee, chosen based on their safety records, one large, one medium sized, and one small. They were: This committee selected three topics: suspended loads, heat stress, recognizing work zones. Their best practices are now on MSHA's web site for everyone to use. In the coming year, new committees led by Sentinels winners are already forming to develop best practices for all categories of mines.

This Best Practice Partnership program builds on the past, yet it is a true innovation. Florida can take great pride in leading the way.

Conclusion

And now it's time to recognize 23 outstanding Florida mines that have led the way through accomplishing outstanding safety records in the year 2002.

These are mines that qualified for the prestigious Sentinels of Safety program that we co-sponsor with the National Mining Association each year. Each of these mines worked at least 30,000 employee-hours in the year 2002 without one single lost-time injury during the year. That is a notable achievement.

Since 1926, the tie-breaker to determine the Sentinels of Safety winner in each category of mines has been the total number of injury-free employee-hours worked by each mine in the year. This year Florida had more mines in the top five of their category than any other State - five mines. They are going to receive recognition in a few minutes, but I want to give them special notice: In terms of States with mines finishing in the top five, Arizona was your closest competition, with three mines, compared with five mines here. Well done, Florida!

Sentinels qualifiers and winners have shown the highest level of commitment to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.

They have recognized the planning, knowledge, experience and skill required to maintain such a level of safety and health, along with teamwork from all levels of the organization. They make safety a core value in their operations.

Sentinels of Safety qualifiers and winners demonstrate willingness to stay focused on safety and even improve on already terrific records. We in the Mine Safety and Health Administration are committed to providing all mines with assistance to maintain sterling records as well as improve where improvement is needed.

One of our goals is to see the number of mines achieving such high standards grow each year.

So special congratulations to each one of you here today representing the Sentinels of Safety qualifying mines. Please extend our warmest wishes to all of your employees when you return home.

And thank you, all of you, for being here. With continued vigilance, thoughtful communication, and partnership, we are moving 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.

God bless America and God bless our nation's miners. Thank you for your time and attention.

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