Joe Main, the Obama administration’s assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, held a conference call today to outline for the media his priorities for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Mine safety advocates have high hopes — and high expectations — for Main, the former longtime mine safety and health director for the United Mine Workers of American union.
I’ve posted a recording of the entire conference call, and you can listen by clicking on this button:
And here are a few highlights:
— MSHA plans action “fairly quickly — as in the “next couple of weeks” — on a plan that Main said will end deadly black lung disease. Main said the standard limit respirable dust in underground mines needs to be tightened and that previous recommendations that MSHA do so will be part of this overall strategy.
— Along with that, Main plans to generally “beef up” the “health” part of MSHA, including staffing changes aimed toward those issues.
— MSHA will be focusing some efforts on the types of violations it finds to be leading causes of deaths in mines.
— Main plans to re-examine the changes in mine emergency response and rescue that have been made since the disasters at Sago, Aracoma, Darby and Crandall Canyon, and working to fill in “gaps” that still exist in those programs.
— MSHA will be taking a hard look at its training requirements and industry training programs, given the huge transition in the mining workforce, with lots of retirements and many new workers moving into the industry.
— Main plans to put a new emphasis at MSHA on seeing that miners can play a strong role in enforcement, perhaps meaning the agency will do more to stand up for miners who speak out against unsafe conditions in their mines.
— Main said he is taking no position on the S-MINER Act, a set of supplements to the 2006 MINER Act that has been pushed by Democratic leaders in Congress and the United Mine Workers.
And here’s a quote that sums up Main’s general goals for MSHA:
… I think that we in this country can achieve zero fatalities. When you look at what we’ve accomplished, I think that is entirely possible