President Clinton signed the International Labor Organization''s (ILO) Convention 176 concerning safety and health in mines.
Negotiated by representative of government, labor and industry from the United States and other nations, Convention 176 is based on the principles of the U.S. Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
"Ratification of Convention 176 signals U.S. commitment to safety and health protection for workers in one of the world''s most dangerous occupations," said Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. "Without changing any existing U.S. law or regulations, Convention 176 also enhances the ability of the U.S. mining industry to compete on a more level playing field in the global economy."
Under recent U.S. mine safety laws, fatal mine accidents have declined significantly. U.S. mining deaths dropped from 425 in 1970 to 236 by 1980, 122 in 1990, and 85 last year, according to the Department of Labor.
Clinton signed the ILO convention on Jan. 5, making the United States the 16 ILO member nation to ratify it.
Convention 176 specifies responsibilities for government, employers and workers.
Ratifying states are to formulate, carry out and review mine safety and health policy, including designating a competent authority to monitor and regulate safety and health in mines.
Employers are responsible for ensuring adequate underground ventilation; preventing fires and explosions; providing emergency response, evacuation plans and training; and conducting accident investigations.
Workers are required to comply with safety and health measures under the Convention. They have the right to report accidents and dangerous conditions and must be allowed to exercise safety and health rights without discrimination or retaliation.
"Experience under U.S. mine safety law has shown that most mining deaths are preventable," said Herman. "Convention 176 reflects that experience and helps to strengthen labor standards worldwide."
by Virginia Sutcliffe