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Remarks of Assistant Secretary of Labor Dave D. Lauriski
At the Unveiling of the Professional Miner Recognition
National Mine Health and Safety Academy
August 19, 2004

Good morning. Welcome to the National Mine Health and Safety Academy.

I want to thank all of you for being here on such a momentous occasion. I know that some of you have traveled a long distance to be here. I greatly appreciate your commitment and dedication to your professions and to mine safety and health.

Id like to congratulate Doug Conaway on being elected as the new president of the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association. I know hell serve the organization well.

I'm proud to say to you this morning that I fully support the concept and spirit of the new Professional Miner Recognition.

Miners who work extended periods of time without experiencing an occupational injury deserve our highest praise. Those who work for consecutive years without an on-the-job injury deserve official recognition as "Professional Miners."

Those of us who work in the mining industry everyday understand that this is a remarkable achievement. In short, miners who accomplish this feat have chosen to make safety and health real values.

These miners represent the very best in our industry because they make safety and health their highest priority as they go about their daily routine. These are the kind of people who identify and correct potential hazards, who wear their personal protective equipment and who look out for the safety of their fellow workers.

Why "professional?"

Like other professionals, miners are experts in their craft. And like those professionals, miners also are paid to do difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible work in an intrusively hazardous environment, for the good of others in our society.

I'm hopeful that the impact of this special recognition will have consequences far beyond the Holmes Safety Association membership and the state of West Virginia. The Professional Miner Recognition has the potential to influence the safety and health performance of the American mining industry and, just as important, the way miners and the mining profession is seen through the eyes of every member of the public.

We always seek to improve miner health and safety. And we are succeeding: The mining industry has made tremendous strides in health and safety. In fact, these strides have been record-setting in all aspects of health and safety. This is progress we can all be proud of.

Today While we have made tremendous progress, there is much left to do. MSHA's vision -- and yours as well -- is to send every miner home safe and healthy after each shift. I believe we as an industry will have to explore innovative ideas, techniques, and methods to reach the next level in miner safety and health.

And I believe the Professional Miner concept is a "one of a kind" program that will move us toward that shared vision. A professional miner will be someone quite special to our industry and to this country.

Those recognized as professional miners have shown that they care deeply about improving safety and health conditions in the mining workplace.

Professional miners will be at the forefront of a new day in mine safety and health history, leading us to a safer, more healthful and productive American mining industry and leading us to our ultimate goal of zero: zero fatals, zero injuries and an end to occupational illness.

Today, I congratulate the initial recipients of the Professional Miner Recognition. I also want to remind you that along with this certification you receive comes a serious responsibility to yourself, your co-workers and your family to remain vigilant where matters of safety and health in the workplace are concerned. We're counting on folks like you to lead the way to a new level in miner safety and health.

Thank you and once again, congratulations to all of our new Professional Miners.