Magazine article Occupational Hazards

MSHA's New Administrator Means Business

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

MSHA's New Administrator Means Business

Article excerpt

In an exclusive interview with OH, David Lauriski charts ambitious goals for reducing mine injuries and deaths.

Confirmed to the top job at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) May 9, David Lauriski brings with him 30 years of experience in the mine industry. He was director of health, safety, environmental and governmental affairs for Inter-west Mining in the early 1990s and general manager of Energy West Mining until 1999, when he left the private sector.

Prior to his confirmation as MSHA administrator, Lauriski held a number of posts, including chairman of the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining. He is recognized as a certified mine safety professional by the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals.

OH: Some stakeholders have complained that, over the past eight years, an adversarial relationship has developed between MSHA and its stakeholders. Do you have any plans to address this?

David Lauriski: The Mine Act has had a profound effect on the mining industry, but over the past five years, those effects have slowed almost to a flat line, if you will.

So the question is, do we turn things around by doing the same things we've done over the past 25 years, or do we need to do something different? Everyone I talk to tells me we probably need to look at doing things differently. We're asking all the stakeholders and all the employees at the agency to give us their best ideas, to help us improve our performance over the next few years. We're soliciting these ideas as we speak, as I go around the country.

OH: Can you be specific about any of these ideas?

DL: We're still collecting ideas, so it would be premature to go into specifics. But think the fact that we're soliciting ideas is a new way to do things. People seem to be quite enthusiastic and encouraged that they're being asked to help.

OH: What are your top priorities for MSHA?

DL: For us to accomplish improved performance, we need to have a standard against which we're measured. Our goals have never really been defined.

So I've asked stakeholders and employees of the agency to commit with me to reducing (industry) fatalities by 15 percent each year and our nonfatal-days-lost (NFDL) rate by 50 percent over the next four years. If we meet these goals, by 2005 we will have reduced fatalities by 45 and cut our NFDL rate to 1.72 per 200,000 employee hours.

OH: Are there some weaknesses at MSHA you would like to improve? …

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