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Dave D. Lauriski
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
"Stay Out-Stay Alive" 2004 Campaign Kickoff
Rolla, Missouri
April 7, 2004

Thank you, Principal (Susan) Bowles.

Good morning , boys and girls.

I know you've never heard my name before, but I'll bet you've heard of my boss, President George W. Bush. Am I right?

President Bush appointed me to my job. I am in charge of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That's part of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Does anyone here know what the Department of Labor does?

Our job is to protect the workers of America, to help Americans find work, and make sure that working Americans have jobs that are safe, healthy and fair.

In the Mine Safety and Health Administration, what we do is look out for the men and women who work in our nation's mines.

Has anyone here ever been in a mine? Have you seen pictures of one?

A mine is a hole in the ground where workers take out minerals.

It can be a tunnel into the ground or a big hole on the surface of the ground.

Mines can produce coal, gold, salt and many more things.

Coal is burned in power plants to make electricity.

Next time you turn on your computer or your TV set, think about that -- the power may have come from burning coal.

My father and uncles were all coal miners, and I worked in coal mining myself. We all worked underground for many years.

Now I am in charge of keeping miners safe.

We check all the mines in the country to look for dangers.

We advise the people who work at the mines how to do their work safely.

And if there is an emergency in a mine, we help rescue people.

Missouri has a lot of mines.

You may have mines near where you live and not even know it.

While a lot of good things extracted from mines make our lives easier, mining can create some dangers.

If you're a miner by profession, you've been trained to look out for these hazards.

But if you haven't had the right training, by going into a mine you could find yourself in harm's way.

That's what I want to talk with you about today.

By the way, how many of you like to swim?

Who likes to go exploring?

Do any of you ride ATV's?

Sometimes, when you're looking to have fun, a mine can seem like a great place to go.

There could be cliffs and holes and pits full of water.

It might be a mine where people work every day or a mine that closed a long time ago.

There could be mine equipment and tools lying around that seem interesting.

We in the Mine Safety and Health Administration want to warn you - Stay Out, and Stay Alive.

Last summer, a college student at the Rolla campus of the University of Missouri drowned at quarry in Phelps County.

He had jumped into the water from a 70-foot cliff. That's a long way down!

He disappeared in the water while trying to swim toward two friends who were waiting at the water's edge.

Divers from the Rolla Rural Fire Department recovered his body after about an hour's search.

After I finish speaking, a rescue person from the fire department who is very familiar with that drowning is going to talk to you.

I'm telling you this story not to frighten you, but to make you aware that these are not safe places to swim.

The water is very, very cold.

You may be a great swimmer, but do you realize that if you jump into extremely cold water, you can develop muscle cramps?

The water isn't clear. If you got into trouble, your friends might not be able to find you.

Sometimes, at an abandoned mine, there will be old equipment underwater.

Imagine diving into a barbed wire fence that was left behind by the company that used to mine there.

I am sorry to say that drownings happen every year around the country.

In addition, young people have gotten hurt riding their ATV's at mines, or just exploring.

When I was working in Utah, I was involved in two situations - one had a happy ending, the other did not.

It was 1989, and 10-year-old Joshua Dennis was on a hiking excursion through the Oquirrh Mountains with his Boy Scout troup.

He got lost in one of the old silver, lead and zinc mines in the area that he and his fellow scout troup members were exploring.

For five days we searched for him. Amazingly, two of my colleagues found him about 2,000 feet underground.

He suffered only from mild frostbite and dehydration.

Jeremiah Etherington was not so fortunate. He was an 18-year-old cave explorer who fell to his death in a Tooele County mine shaft in 1996.

One of his family members finally recovered his body.

We don't want to ever have to rescue you from a mine.

That's why we are here today to talk to you about staying out and staying alive.

That's the name of our program -- Stay Out-Stay Alive.

Later on, your teachers will be passing out stickers and bookmarks with that slogan on them.

I hope you'll put those stickers somewhere special so you will remember.

And I hope you will do me another favor.

Talk to your friends, your brothers and sisters, even your parents about what you heard here today.

Tell them to Stay Out and Stay Alive.

Does anyone have any questions?

You've been a great audience.

And, before I turn the microphone over to our next speaker, I would like to ask Principal Bowles to come up here and accept this plaque.

This plaque is to show our appreciation to Wyman Elementary School for hosting the 2004 kickoff of the "Stay Out-Stay Alive" campaign.

Thank you again for being such good listeners.