MSHA Blog Post: [December 6, 2023]
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor has published the following blog by Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson to commemorate National Miners Day, which annually honors the sacrifices and contributions of miners past and present:
“Each December on National Miners Day, we recognize the contributions that miners make to our country. Historically, miners have been an invaluable part of our nation’s workforce, supplying the minerals and raw materials for many critical needs like energy, manufacturing and infrastructure. Today, thousands of miners supply the iron and coal necessary to produce steel, the sand and gravel needed to build our roads and bridges, and the copper and other important minerals essential to manufacturing electronics and batteries for electrical vehicles. With the President’s signing of The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, mining and miners will continue to play a critical role in fostering a prosperous future for America and its citizens.
Today, we also honor current, retired and former miners, including those we’ve lost in fatal mining accidents and to occupational illnesses such as black lung disease and silicosis. In doing so, we recommit to ensuring that miners’ safety and health must always be the first priority and concern in mining.
Miners must also play an active role in safety and health because speaking up saves lives. Throughout history miners and their unions have always been at the forefront of the fight for better workplace protections, including the thousands of coal miners in my home state of West Virginia who engaged in wildcat strikes to raise awareness about black lung disease and advocate for safety and health protections and benefits for sick miners.
As assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, I have the privilege of leading the department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration and supporting our agency’s employees who are out at mine sites each day actively protecting miners’ safety and health. I recently attended a memorial service commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Farmington Mine Disaster and honoring the 78 miners who lost their lives. That event was a catalyst for passage of the Federal Coal Mine and Safety Act of 1969, which ushered in significant new safety and health protections for miners. Although mining fatalities have significantly decreased over the 45 years since MSHA was created, one lost life is one too many and we all still have work to do.
This year, the mining industry has experienced a troubling increase in fatal mining accidents. As I explained in an open letter to the mining community, MSHA will continue use all its tools to combat this unacceptable trend. In the past year, MSHA has twice used one of its strongest enforcement actions when chronic violators have demonstrated a disregard for the health and safety of miners. Additionally, we conduct monthly impact inspections to identify and eliminate hazards that can cost miners their lives. To date, impact inspections have resulted in 2,307 violations, including 654 significant and substantial and 46 unwarrantable failure findings.
We also launched the inaugural “Stand Down to Save Lives” event to educate miners and operators as part of a national campaign to encourage the nation’s mining community to take steps to prevent injuries and illnesses. MSHA has also issued numerous targeted safety and health alerts to share information and best practices through various media, including the Miner Safety and Health App.
Finally, too many miners continue to suffer from debilitating and deadly occupational illnesses such as silicosis and black lung disease that are entirely preventable. That’s why MSHA will also continue to focus on protecting miners’ health, including tirelessly working on finalizing its rule to protect miners from exposure to toxic silica dust.
This National Miners Day, please join me in expressing appreciation for our nation’s miners and their families and committing to protecting their safety and health.
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Frances Alonzo, 202-997-6977, email@example.com
Release Number: 23-2551-NAT