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MSHA News Release No. 2001-0110
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Katharine Synder
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Released Thursday, January 10, 2001

President Clinton has signed the International Labor Organization's Convention 176 concerning safety and health in mines. Negotiated by representatives of government, labor and industry from the United States and other nations, Convention 176 is based on the principles of the U.S. Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.    "Ratification of Convention 176 signals U.S. commitment to safety and health protection for workers in one of the world's most dangerous occupations," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Without changing any existing U.S. law or regulation, Convention 176 also enhances the ability of the U.S. mining industry to compete on a more level playing field in the global economy.

   "I would like to commend the Mine Safety and Health Administration's former assistant secretary, Davitt McAteer, the United Mine Workers of America, and the National Mining Association for their work in negotiating Convention 176," Herman said. "I would also like to express thanks to Senator Byrd, Senator Helms and other mining state senators who worked to make this happen."

   "Experience under U.S. mine safety law has shown that most mining deaths are preventable. Convention 176 reflects that experience and helps to strengthen labor standards worldwide," Herman said.

   Under recent U.S. mine safety laws, fatal mine accidents have declined significantly. U.S. mining deaths dropped from 425 in 1970 to 236 by 1980, 122 in 1990, and 85 (preliminary figure) last year.

   President Clinton signed the ILO convention on Jan. 5, 2001 at the White House, making the U.S. the sixteenth ILO member nation to ratify it. The United States has ratified two other international labor conventions during the Clinton Administration: Convention 150 on labor administration and Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor.

   Convention 176 specifies responsibilities for government, employers and workers. Ratifying states are to formulate, carry out and review mine safety and health policy, including designating a competent authority to monitor and regulate safety and health in mines. Employers are responsible for ensuring adequate underground ventilation; preventing fires and explosions; providing emergency response, evacuation plans and training; and conducting accident investigations. Workers must comply with safety and health measures. They have the right to report accidents and dangerous conditions and must be allowed to exercise safety and health rights without discrimination or retaliation.

   In related international activities, MSHA has conducted mine safety and health information exchanges with several countries during the past several years, and the Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, W.Va., has opened its classrooms to visiting delegations from mine operations around the world, including South Africa, Poland and Ukraine. In 1999 and 2000, MSHA hosted the International Mine Rescue Conference and Competitions to coincide with national competitions for mine rescue teams.