MSHA Helps the Little Guy

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has established a new Small Mine Office to address the specialized needs of the nearly 6,500 small mines around the country.

MSHA defines small mines as any surface or underground operation with five or fewer employees. Despite their small size, many such mines have some big safety concerns, says Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

"For the last several years, the fatal incident rate at small mine operations has been more than double the rate for larger mines," he said. "This new division will enable us to better focus our resources on reducing these accident and injury rates.

The Small Mine Office will enable MSHA to more effectively meet the agency's strategic program priorities that call for strong, fair effective enforcement; expanded compliance assistance, education and outreach; and national leadership in promoting the value of safety and health, Lauriski added.

The tasks Lauriski has set for the Small Mine Office include:

  • Develop additional training materials tailored to small mines.
  • Provide on-site compliance assistance to small mine operations throughout the country.
  • Expand training and informational resources on the Web for small operators.
  • Focus compliance assistance and training visits on mines that do not have their own safety and training departments and cannot use Web-based resources.
  • Identify regulations that create an undue burden on small mine operators and develop alternate ways to provide the same level of protection.

Kevin Burns, a 15-year veteran of MSHA, will head up the Small Mine Office. Burns has more than 20 years of experience in the mining industry. During his career, he has worked on more than a dozen regulations, including Part 46, roof control, impoundments at coal mines and explosives at metal/nonmetal mines. He has worked in several different program areas within MSHA, including Technical Support, the Office of Assessments, and Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health.

Previously, Burns was the director of safety and health services at the National Stone Association, an attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll P.C. of Pittsburgh, and a senior counsel with the American Mining Congress. He holds an undergraduate degree in mining engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from Duquesne University.

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