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Remarks of Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor David G. Dye
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Sentinels of Safety Awards Luncheon
Washington, DC
September 21, 2006

Thanks, Bruce, for that great introduction. I'm delighted to be here - I always like speaking at awards functions. Everyone is happy, everyone is looking forward to the awards presentations, and sometimes I get to do the fun part - help give out the awards.

This awards ceremony, however, is special. This is the 80th anniversary Sentinels of Safety, the oldest and most prestigious safety awards in the country. I am delighted to be here to help celebrate this milestone anniversary and to recognize these 20 operations for their outstanding safety records.

In fact, my very favorite awards programs are those for worker safety. That is what we are all about - that is what every employee at MSHA lives to do, every day. We at MSHA live to protect and promote the safety and health of workers throughout the mining industry. It's always a pleasure to recognize companies that make outstanding safety and health achievements, which means these companies are helping us all achieve our ultimate goal - sending safe and healthy miners home to their families, every shift, every day.

The 20 operations we are recognizing here today have racked up some impressive achievements during 2005, collectively working two and a half million hours without a lost-time injury in their operations. Now I think that deserves a hearty round of applause from all of us!

Within this select group of 20 winners, there are some who deserve special recognition. In the large group category, the Sandersville Mill (large mill group) and the Peerless Mine (large underground nonmetal group) were winners in 2004 as well as winners this year. They clearly exhibit a special dedication to keeping a safe work environment.

And there are repeat winners who are moving up in the rankings - so watch out, you first place winners! Skyline Mine #3 took first place in the large underground coal group this year after placing second last year. Kinross Gold's K-2 Mine placed first this year in the large underground metal group after placing second in 2002. Sorters Sand and Gravel operation rose from a fourth place finish in 2003's dredge group to place first in the large dredge group for the 2005 awards. The Taylor Plant of Badger Mining Group finished in fourth place in the bank or pit group in 2000, and captured first place this year in the large bank or pit group. So, first-place holders - the rest of them are gaining on you, and we're glad to see it!

And while we can only recognize 20 first-place winners here today, there are more than 3,000 operations around the country who will be recognized for their exceptional safety records - working with no lost time injuries throughout 2005.

You are all truly champions - role models and examples of how operations in the mining industry can and should be run, every shift, every day, every year. You have shown it can be done, shift after shift, day after day, year after year. You play a significant role in the safety achievements the mining industry has made over the years - and you will be leaders in mine safety in the years to come.

Leadership in mine safety is more important than ever. As you know, this has been a particularly difficult year so far in our nation's coal mines, with 37 fatalities to date, including the tragedies in West Virginia - as well as 20 fatalities to date in metal and nonmetal mines. So many fatal accidents, coming so quickly at a time when mining fatalities have been steadily declining, are a wake-up call across the industry that is telling us we need to re-focus and re-dedicate ourselves to making safety job number one in the mines. We can do better in the mining industry - we know it, because you all have proven it!

We all have much to do. You will continue to exercise the attention, follow-through and commitment to safe working operations that led you to your first-place awards today. You will continue to exercise the safety leadership you have so clearly demonstrated. We at MSHA will continue to work with our stakeholders, mine operators and miners - you, the mining community - to protect, preserve and promote the safety and health of our nation's miners. We especially value the help and input that you - owners, operators, safety and health professionals, miners - can give us in our efforts to achieve our ultimate goal of zero injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the mines of America.

You have shown the mining community - indeed, the world - that our ultimate goal is achievable. We can bring about the day we all look forward to: the day that each and every one of the miners in this country goes home safe, healthy and whole to friends and family.

You've already done it - and you have our admiration and gratitude. Thank you for your achievements, thank you for your leadership - and congratulations on your remarkable achievements!