MSHA kicked off its annual "Stay Out -- Stay Alive" national public awareness campaign to warn children and adults about the dangers of exploring and playing on active and abandoned mine sites.
Every year, dozens of people are injured or killed in recreational accidents on mine property.
MSHA pioneered "Stay Out -- Stay Alive" three years ago to educate the public about the existing hazards.
The campaign is a partnership of more than 50 federal and state agencies, private organizations, businesses and individuals.
"The men and women employed in our nation''s mines are trained to work in a safe manner," said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. "For the hiker, off-roader or swimmer, however, the hazards are not always apparent. These areas may appear attractive, but they can be all-too-deadly."
"As the weather becomes more appealing and the school year winds down, more and more young people are seeking adventure outside and in out-of-the-way places," continued Chao. "If we arm them with the facts about mine hazards, perhaps we can keep them out of harm''s way."
From April 16 through April 30, "Stay Out -- Stay Alive" partners will visit schools, communities and youth organizations throughout the country to educate children about the importance of steering clear of active and abandoned mines.
Last year, at least 24 non-miners died in accidents on mine property that involved quarry drownings, overturned ATV vehicles and falls down mine shafts, according to MSHA.
The agency said five such recreations accidents have been recorded so far this year.
Below are some of the hazards that explorers and adventure-seekers may encounter:
- Vertical shafts can be hundreds of feet deep. At the surface, they may be completely unprotected, hidden by vegetation or covered by rotting boards.
- Horizontal openings that appear sturdy may be supported by rotting timbers. Unstable rock formations make cave-ins a real danger.
- Lethal concentrations of deadly gases can accumulate in underground passages.
- Unused or misfired explosives can become unstable, and deadly vibrations from a touch or misstep can trigger and explosion.
- Hills of loose material in stockpiles or refuse heaps can easily collapse upon an unsuspecting biker or climber.
- Water-filled quarries and pits conceal rock ledges and old machinery. The water can be deceptively deep and dangerously cold. Steep, slippery walks make exiting these swimming holes extremely difficult.
There are approximately 14,000 active and as many as 500,000 abandoned mines in the United States, according to MSHA data.
by Virginia Sutcliffe