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Opening Session Speech Presented by John R. Correll
Deputy Assistant Secretary - Operations
Mine Safety and Health Administration
At the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining
Institute 2004 Annual Convention in Snowbird, Utah

June 28, 2004


Good Morning. Thank you for your kind welcome, Lyle and thank you for having me here today. I spoke at the fall meeting of the Utah state RMCMI in Price and it's nice to be invited back. I can see by the program that you have two great days of interesting and informative meetings, including the mine rescue team exhibition and the safety recognition award presentations.

As you all know, I am here standing in for Dave Lauriski, who is in China with Secretary of Labor Chao. As you also know, Utah is near and dear to his heart - and so is the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute. I want to assure you Dave would be here if it were at all possible. But it is my good fortune that I could come in his place.

We have made great progress as an Agency thanks to the hard work and dedication of MSHA's employees. But we are always looking for new ways to solve problems and continue to send more miners home safe and healthy every day. And we have been working on some great ways to do that, including thinking strategically. During my presentation today I'm going to talk about where the Agency is in terms of our transformation to the MSHA of the 21st century, a little bit about how we got to be where we are, and then describe our roadmap to the future state. And I'm going to focus on the significance of our plan and the planning process to demonstrate the implication for the mining industry.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower once said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Now I do like Ike, but I would have to take exception to the first part of the sentence. I have found plans and the planning process to be indispensable - the plan to give me a roadmap to my goal, and the process to focus me on the steps I must take to get there.

We all know that having a strategic plan makes the difference between success and failure. We've seen it time and time again, in business, in our lives - and in government: Having a strategic plan is crucial to success.

And the process of making the strategic plan is crucial to its success. Putting together a workable strategic plan - a good roadmap - that will successfully lead you to your goals requires a thorough, careful process that takes into account each factor that you may encounter along your way to success, as well as those with whom you will travel.

In order to talk about our current plan I want to take you back to three years ago, when Dave Lauriski went to Washington to lead MSHA. He knew that change was in the air. Dave was confirmed as Assistant Secretary with 30-plus years experience in the coal mining industry, and more than 20 years of experience in dealing with MSHA. And while he always recognized the value of MSHA's work in saving miners' lives and making mines safer places to work, he also recognized that the relationship between MSHA and the mining industry was not always as productive as it could have been.

Dave vowed he would change that. And he did. And I liked what I saw so much, I left the mining industry after nearly 30 years there and joined him. And it has been an exciting and productive experience for both of us - and for the mining industry.

One of the first exciting changes Dave made was to begin a real, honest, open dialogue with the mining industry. Having worked for so many years in coal mining, he knew there were many unexplored opportunities for a productive dialogue between the industry and MSHA - and he wanted both sides to begin to listen to - and hear - each other.

MSHA conducted meetings with hundreds of stakeholders in the last half of 2001 to solicit input on how to best reach our common goal: improving the safety and health conditions for our nation's miners. We received dozens of valuable suggestions from people on the ground in the mining industry - suggestions that we have successfully incorporated into our daily business.

Using what it learned during that stakeholder dialogue, and considering input from agency employees, MSHA developed a strategic plan which set the agency in a new direction. Since that time the Agency has moved from a confrontational, adversarial relationship with the mining community to one of cooperation and coordination. Mine inspections are conducted with a purpose. Help from MSHA's training specialists and technical support personnel is now easily available to the mining industry. And the increased availability of and emphasis on compliance assistance means mine operators are helped to comply with the law before someone is hurt or killed, rather than after. Prevention is what it's all about, as we move with the mining industry toward an active culture of prevention - actively preventing accidents rather than passively complying with the laws.

And we're enforcing the Mine Act as it was anticipated, using all the tools provided including enforcement, education and training, and technical support. The number of enforcement site events has increased more than 6% during the 2000-2003 period.

This balanced approach to prevention appears to have produced significant improvement. The last 3 years have seen record low years in terms of the number of fatalities. Over the past three years, fatalities are down 34 percent and injuries down 20 percent. Coal fatalities are down 22 percent this year, compared to last year at this time. But one is one too many. And too many miners are still injured on the job. Our performance is still short of our goal: sustained zero fatalities and the end of occupational illness. We will get there.

We have witnessed a great change in the relationship between MSHA and the mining industry. But we still need to institutionalize this change inside MSHA. We need to institutionalize our successes. We recognize the need to think and plan strategically to bring about cultural changes in transforming the agency into a premier safety and health organization. And we have a plan to do that, too, based on the success of the strategic plan that transformed our relationship with the mining industry into a productive partnership.

We at MSHA are now in the midst of refining our internal strategic plan - our internal roadmap to a successful future for our agency and our clients. I want to share with you some of our planning and thinking processes so that you understand where we are coming from, where we would like to go, and how we envision getting there - and we want to take you along with us.

We began our 2004 strategic planning process a few months ago, by naming a Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) - which I Chair. We charged the SLT with uniting MSHA around achieving our ultimate goal: zero. Zero fatalities, zero injuries for all miners. MSHA takes this goal very seriously. MSHA employees work their entire careers to make this happen. And the SLT took this charge seriously and with a sense of urgency, knowing that the Agency must look for ways to improve its operations, processes and people so that it can continue to improve safety and health in the mining industry.

If we were to create a successful strategic plan that everyone in the organization could commit to and strive toward, we needed thoughts and ideas from all levels of MSHA. Our employees have a wealth of knowledge about safety and health, the mining industry, and their individual roles. They are the folks on the ground, in the mines, in the businesses, and we wanted and needed their honest feedback on the state of MSHA today and the direction we should move toward as an Agency. We held a Leadership Conference with our senior managers, eleven focus groups around the country, and an conducted online dialog as forums for strategic discussion. These sessions generated many valuable ideas and discussions which are the basis for MSHA's strategic plan - our roadmap to achieving our goal of zero.

Based on the critical input from employees on the Agency's strategic direction, the SLT crafted statements of mission, vision, and core values for MSHA. The team also chose a set of six strategic initiatives that will help move MSHA toward its vision and named executive sponsors and team leaders to champion each initiative. Perhaps most importantly, the SLT committed as a team to making the strategic initiatives happen, in turn driving the Agency toward our vision. Our team is accountable for the successful implementation of MSHA's strategy, and we are energized and dedicated to this challenge because we believe it is necessary in order to continue to improve the health and safety of the Nation's miners.

MSHA's mission is clear and unequivocal. We are safety and health professionals dedicated to sending healthy miners homeevery shift, every day.

Our vision is that we will be partners in leading the way to zero fatalities and the end of occupational illness. Partners with business, partners with miners, partners with the entire spectrum of the mining industry. No man is an island, and no government agency is, either! It takes all of us working together to make our vision happen.

After exploring employee input about fundamental beliefs and attitudes about the Agency's work, as well as employees' shared vision of an effective workplace, the SLT formulated a set of core values. These core values are what MSHA employees have committed to live up to every day, from the top of the organization throughout every level. We expect everyone to live up to these values, and are committed to helping each other to do so.

Our core values are: These core values are how we want to live each and every day.

Once we defined what our mission was, what our vision was, and our underlying principles in achieving our vision and our mission, we needed to define where we were in achieving our goal, and what we needed to do to get there. During the strategic planning process, we asked MSHA employees to look at how the Agency is doing today, and how it could improve.

Our strategic planning process revealed several consistent themes about perceptions of the Agency's state today - what is working and what we could do better. We learned that our employees' commitment to our mission and their focus on the miner are consistent and proven. Our employees believe strongly that compliance assistance is a significant and useful method to increase our effectiveness by leveraging the combined power of inspections, technical support, and education and training. It is also clear that MSHA's training of miners and mine operators is a significant force in reducing mining accidents and illnesses. And finally, our colleagues understand that communications and awareness, while sometimes imperfect, are vital components in building a safety and health conscious mining community

However, we are always striving for continuous improvement. We took a hard look at what we needed, and we discovered that we could do better in a number of areas. We need a better inventory of the skills and capabilities of our people, and we need better ways to develop our people, particularly through internal training. We need more clarity and consistency in our enforcement. We must strive for a more open, flexible and forward-thinking culture within the agency. And we simply must do a better job of providing consistent and top-notch support to our front-line people so they can do a world-class job.

To move us toward our vision and to rise to the challenges we discovered, the SLT identified six key strategic initiatives for us to launch: And so we have our roadmap. This strategic plan I have detailed for you will give us consistent processes that focus our work on our common goals. It will allow us to become flexible and efficient - which will directly benefit the mining industry. We will constantly evaluate our progress, making sure that we are headed in the right direction along the right roads - and touching the right people along the way. And as we are better able to define our goals and objectives, and refine the processes by which we achieve them become more efficient at our work, you benefit, too. A more efficient MSHA is a plus for the mining industry. We focus our resources where they are needed, we can do more with less, and we can work more closely in tandem with the industry to achieve our common vision: safe, healthy and whole miners.

We are looking forward to continuing our work with you to achieve this common goal. We want to move with you toward an active culture of prevention - a culture that says "Of course we comply with the law. That's our baseline, a given. We are striving toward greater things - toward preventing injuries and illnesses before they happen, rather than reacting after it's too late." We all fail when someone is injured or killed. We all succeed when all miners are safe and healthy.

And a culture of prevention makes safety a value, not just a priority. Values are the bedrock of behavior - values are the foundation upon which cultures are built. Holding safety as a value means that the expectation of safe operation does not change, regardless of the fashion of the time or the expediency of the moment. Telling the truth is a value; getting out of trouble is a priority. Living up to your values may conflict with your priorities - and values must prevail. Just as democracy and freedom are enduring values in American culture, safety should become an enduring value in the mining culture.

Today I spoke with you about MSHA's roadmap to the future. We want to travel that road with you, toward a safer and healthier future for the mining industry. The mining industry remains critical to the health of this nation's economy as the central provider of this country's energy. This industry can also become a leader that shows the way toward safer and healthier workplaces in this country. Please join with us in reaching that common goal we know we share: sending each miner home safe, healthy and whole at the end of every shift.

Thank you.