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MSHA Assistant Secretary Dave D. Lauriski
Safety Achievement Awards Luncheon
Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association
Indianapolis, Indiana
February 5, 2004

Thank you, Walt, for the kind introduction.

I would also like to thank Robert Jones and Ken Mulzer for the invitation to join you for lunch and the awards ceremony.

When I got the letter to attend today's event, I knew I had to come. It gives me a wonderful opportunity to salute members of the mining community who make safety a core value. It also gives me a chance to tell you how much we value our relationship with the Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association and its members.

The companies that are being honored this afternoon exemplify what happens when mine operators and miners work collectively to carry out sound health and safety practices.

Today, 78 aggregate companies in Indiana are being recognized for achieving injury-free workplaces in 2003.

That is a tremendous accomplishment.

But wait it gets better. That translates into 400 years without a lost-time injury!

This is outstanding. I know all of you are extremely proud of your accomplishments.

As an awards recipient, you truly are champions of safety in the mining industry. Whether you know it or not, each one of you has played a major role in the achievements this industry has made. You have demonstrated that, in such a dynamic environment, it is indeed possible to work safely -- and return home to your families at the end of every shift in a healthy and safe condition.

You are role models. You set the bar - in fact, you raise the bar.

You have demonstrated beyond a doubt that safe production is the standard for success. And Indiana's aggregates industry is showing no signs of slowing down.

Each year, more than 80 million tons of crushed stone and gravel are produced in Indiana. A good portion of that product never moves beyond the state's borders - most is used within a 50-mile radius of the extraction site.

I was surprised to learn, Indiana ranks 13th nationally in sand and gravel production, 11th in crushed stone, and first in slag production.

The thousands of people who live and work in our Nation's Capital - including those of us in the MSHA national office -- get to enjoy the beauty of Indiana limestone every day.

Many of the buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C., were built with Indiana Limestone -- including the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the National Archives, the National Cathedral and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

As I said, you have a great deal to be proud of -- and so does the mining industry as a whole.

This is the third consecutive year of significant declines in fatalities. Mining fatalities in 2003 were at their lowest level since statistics were first recorded back in 1910. And the same holds true for the injury rates.

Since the year 2000, fatal injuries have decreased by 30 -- from 85 in the year 2000 to 56 last year. That's a 33 percent reduction!

And that means fewer human tragedies. We must always remember the human cost and face of fatalities. These are not just numbers, but lives saved.

Three years ago, we set aggressive goals - a 15 percent reduction in fatality rates and 50 percent reduction in injury rates. And we are moving toward achieving those goals.

I believe we can truly reach this goal with your continued help.

What drives our efforts is a balanced approach of using enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance - what we call MSHA's "Triangle of Success."

When it comes to technical assistance, for instance, we're working on a number of important projects that may interest you - like the exploration of new technologies for scaling high walls, and haul road design to help control runaway vehicles. We're also investigating new types of lighting systems that could be installed on lift equipment to significantly improve the ability of miners to judge the stability of mine roof and back.

In regard to training, our National Mine Health and Safety Academy in West Virginia continues to keep its doors open to help mining companies with annual refresher courses, mine rescue training, mine foreman certification and electrical training.

I encourage you to take advantage of our Academy - it provides you a great opportunity for education and training. Tell us the type of classes you want and we'll help develop a program to meet your special needs. Dozens of Indiana mine operators have come to the Academy for safety and health training.

MSHA's "Triangle of Success" goes beyond classes, it involves the most important part of our success -- creating a culture of prevention: A key component of this new culture is compliance assistance.

While increasing the completion rate for regular inspections, we have made compliance assistance a part of every mine visit. Mine inspections are now more than ever "inspections with a purpose."

Today's MSHA inspectors are far more pro-active, assisting mine operators to determine the roots causes of hazards that lead to both violations and incidents causing injury.

As a result, serious violations continue to decline in parallel with serious injuries - a win/win result for all parties.

At MSHA, I hope we are no longer guided by a "got ya" mentality. We understand that the vast majority of mine operators want to do the right thing - and we should be willing to assist you in your objective. We believe that assisting employers in complying with the law is every bit as important as enforcement.

One of our new compliance assistance tools that you might be interested in involves interactive webcasts.

Last month, for example, we held a national web cast which had over 200 people on line. We analyzed fatalities - both causes and prevention - and discussed best practices. The ultimate purpose of these webcasts is to engage operators, miners, organizations - all stakeholders - in dialogue. This is a fast and efficient way for you to get an update on MSHA's initiatives and for you to give us feedback.

Some of you may have taken part yourselves.

If not, I would like to invite you to join us online. Let us know if you're interested, and we'll be sure to plug you in. The companies you represent are doing such a great job with regard to safety. The examples you set would be an asset to these interactive webcasts.

Another way we are encouraging compliance assistance is through our new MSHA small mines office.

I know I don't have to tell anyone here the difficulties small mine operators face in complying with the MSHA regulations and sometimes just putting together a safety plan. That's why our small mines office has been busy talking with small mine operators, helping them develop programs, helping them understand how to deal with the regulations, even helping them in their education and training needs.

Just last year we visited more than 1,600 small mines to provide safety and health information - including 50 right here in Indiana.

Our small mine team does everything from make site visits to recommend equipment and training. And in the process we have not only increased the small mine operator's ability to protect their miners, but also helped them significantly reduce their record keeping and compliance burdens. The end result is beneficial for all stakeholders - operators, MSHA, and, most importantly, miners and their families.

I could continue with a more detailed list of MSHA initiatives but by now I'm sure you have gotten the message -- MSHA is committed to helping you and the Indiana mining industry bring down even further your injury and fatality rates. And we are doing it by changing our structure, philosophy and attitude.

In short, we are determined to transform ourselves from a tradition bound, slow moving organization into an efficient and accessible agency that can meet your needs.

Mining has always been considered a dangerous occupation. But as today's award winners can testify, you can indeed make it safe and healthy for miners.

Again, I just want to say just how proud we are of your accomplishments. Thank you for all that you are doing to help make the Indiana aggregates industry safer.

Your industry and profession are among the finest -- which is why I wanted to be here today and be part of your award ceremony.

Overall, by working together and strengthening our relationship, we can further eliminate the hazards Indiana miners face everyday on the job.

I look forward to working more closely with all of you in the future.

Thank you for your kind attention.