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Address of Assistant Secretary Richard Stickler
before the Annual Training Resources Applied to Management (TRAM) Conference
October 9, 2007 at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, Beckley, W.Va.

Good Afternoon.

Thank you for your introduction. I'm happy to be here to show support and appreciation for TRAM - Training Resources Applied to Mining.

This is one of the most important conferences that MSHA supports. It has a long history of success. I see that the program is packed with interesting presentations and important topics.

I'd also like to thank the folks at MSHA, and especially the people at the Academy who work so hard to plan, organize and conduct this conference every year. You do a great job!

Thanks, too, to all the presenters at this conference who volunteer their time and share their knowledge and skills to improve mine safety and health training.

Congratulations to the training competition winners. Thanks to all the entrants for their interest in the competition. Your initiative and motivation and contributions have produced valuable resource materials for mine safety and health training.

I'd also like to thank everyone who is attending this conference. Your participation has made this conference a success.

Last year, we saw record attendance at TRAM. This year, I believe we have set another record with more than 500 registrants. I'm glad to see how many people are interested in mine safety and health training.

Mine safety and health training is an important component of achieving our number one priority - an end to injury, illness and fatalities in our nation's mines. That is illustrated in MSHA's Triangle of Success - the three legs are enforcement, technical support, and education and training.

Education and training are a key component in compliance with the law. Miners, supervisors and operators must be educated and trained to know what the law requires, how to comply, and the types of injuries noncompliance can cause.

Education and training is also a key component of implementing new technologies to improve mine safety and health. Miners, supervisors and operators must be properly trained in the application of new technologies.

I firmly believe that all of you that develop and deliver education and training are key to our success in reducing and eliminating injuries, illness and fatalities in mining in this country.

Last year, more than 3,700 mining operations did not have a lost time or restricted work accident. These operations combined worked more than 80 million hours, or equivalent to a 40,000 employee operation working for a year without injury.

There are new education and training challenges and opportunities to improve mine safety and health.

Last year, MSHA finalized the Mine Emergency and Evacuation rule requiring additional training for underground coal miners. This training - expectations training - requires miners to be trained in the use of SCSR training units that provide an authentic SCSR experience including simulated heat and breathing resistance, and annual training donning SCSRs in simulated smoke. The rule also requires that miners travel on escapeways quarterly, and requires miners working alone and each group of miners be provided with multigas detectors. It is critically important that miners be trained in the use of gas detectors and the hazards related to each gas.

Last February, MSHA issued guidance requiring 96 hours of breathable air and methods to isolate miners from hazardous environments.

It is important that miners are properly trained about when and how to protect themselves from dangerous atmospheres.

In May, MSHA issued an ETS that requires those constructing or repairing seals must be trained before assignment along with training of those who test the atmosphere in sealed areas.

In September, we issued a proposed rule that will increase the training for mine rescue team members and one person on each shift responsible for directing mine emergency response. It is critical that miners are properly trained in these new requirements.

Many of you I am sure will meet these new challenges.

Another challenge we face is the proper training of new miners entering the industry.

Last year there was a net gain of 20,000 miners due to the growth in the industry.

With 350,000 miners and a 10% annual attrition rate, another 35,000 new miners entered the industry to replace those leaving.

That is a total of 55,000 new miners entering the industry last year.

I cannot project the future growth of the industry. But I expect the attrition rate of 10% per year to continue for the near term because of the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

Without proper safety training, these new miners will learn the hard way about accidents and injuries.

It is critical that through risk assessment we document the risk associated with mining jobs and establish safe job procedures to minimize the risk.

This then must be used to train miners so they know the risk and safe job procedures to protect their health and safety.

I want to emphasize that miners are not properly trained until they can demonstrate that they can perform what they have been instructed to perform.

Another new item in the area of education and training is the Brookwood-Sago Grants.

These grants were established in honor of those who lost their lives in tragic accidents at Sago and JWR#5 Mine.

Last week, we announced that a half-million dollars was awarded to 7 institutes:
    $135,000 to PSU
    $ 85,000 to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
    $ 13,000 to UMWA Career Center
    $ 54,000 to College of Eastern Utah
    $ 53,000 to Colorado Department of Rec. & mining Safety
    $ 50,000 each to WV Department of Mines HS&T, and Vincennes University of Indiana
This year's grants cover training of miners and development of training materials that address mine emergency training.

I congratulate those receiving this funding and look forward to your success.

To achieve our goal of zero fatalities, we must go beyond the basic training required by law.

I see from the list of program topics that you also recognize this with presentations on Risk Assessment, Substance Abuse, Team participation, and Safe Behaviors.

I encourage you to embrace these areas that go beyond the legal requirement.

I thank you and appreciate your contribution and commitment to improving mine safety and health.