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Remarks of Assistant Secretary of Labor Dave D. Lauriski
before the 76th Annual Sentinels of Safety Awards Presentation
Washington, D.C.
September 19, 2002

Good afternoon.

It's real a pleasure once again to join our partners in the National Mining Association in offering well-deserved congratulations to this year's winners of the Sentinels of Safety Award.

The winners of the Sentinels of Safety are the champions of safety in the mining industry.

And, you are true leaders, because you show others what can be done. With a systematic approach to safety, teamwork and constant vigilance, mining operations of all types can work safely year in and year out.

And, it can be done year after year. Among this year's top winners there are several three-time winners.

The Arena Plant of the Hanson Aggregates South Central in Altair, Texas -- the winner of the "bank or pit" group    has two previous wins. This plant also has finished in the top five a total of eight times.

The Briggs Plant of Fordyce, Limited, in Victoria, Texas in the "dredge" category, also is now a three-time champion.

And for the winner in the "open pit" group Phelps Dodge Sierrita Incorporated, in Green Valley, Arizona this is the third consecutive first-place finish.

If mines like these can achieve injury-free work records years after year, so can others. You, the winners, are the role models. You set the benchmark -- and mines like these consistent winners actually raise the benchmark, year after year.

Beyond the top winners, many other mines around this Nation worked the entire year, last year, without a lost-time injury. All these injury-free mines are receiving certificates for their work records in 2001. Many of them also are notable for their consistent safe work records.

For instance, the U.S. Gypsum's Sperry Mine, in Sperry, Iowa, finished second this year in the underground nonmetal category. This is the sixteenth time the Sperry operation has finished in the top five! And that includes two past wins.

In the dredge group, the Porter Plant & Pit of RGI Materials in Porter, Texas, has finished in the top five seven times.

And in the underground metal group, the Clinch Valley Mine of Pasminco Zinc, Incorporated in Thornhill, Tennessee, has finished in the top five for the fifth time.

The Sentinels of Safety award winners demonstrate that the mining industry can be a safe industry -- and is in fact safer than many people realize. Few people know the exemplary manner in which work is done at mines like these.

The Sentinels of Safety winners demonstrate what it takes to achieve an injury-free work record. It is a demanding effort.

This achievement demanded, first of all, recognition of safety as a value. Then it demanded planning. It demanded knowledge, experience and skill. It demanded daily and hourly vigilance. And it demanded teamwork by everyone, management and miners. The result deserves our respect and honor for the achievement, and for all that went into it.

Quecreek exemplifies that demand and value.

The Sentinels of Safety also demonstrate that our industry can continue to improve. With attention to the task at hand, focus on potential hazards, and commitment to safety as a value, every mining operation in our nation can attain the highest levels of safety performance as have our winners whom we recognize today. When all mines reach the level where the safest mines are now, we will have reached the next level in safety and health.

We in the Mine Safety and Health Administration are committed to providing assistance for mines throughout this Nation maintain and improve their safety performance. In the past year, we have launched a new emphasis on compliance assistance that is, helping mine operators and miners to understand what is required to work safely and comply with the law. We are taking a balanced approach that combines enforcement, education and training and technical assistance. And we are offering special attention to small mines.

Our goal is to see more and more mines to achieve the excellent standard set by today's winners. You have shown that it can be done!

Once again, I offer my sincere gratitude and congratulations to the 2002 Sentinels of Safety Award winners. This is a magnificent accomplishment and one that you should cherish.

Keep up the good work!

See the Award Winners....