It’s probably not typical that a lawyer would want to talk about something other than law, but I think something needs to be said. I have been involved with the Act, in one form or another for over 40 years. There is no question but that the Act has had a profound effect on the safety and health of “our nation’s most precious resource” Injuries and fatalities were reduced very significantly in the first 20 years following the Act. Then the pace of reduction slowed and now it has essentially levelled off. Yes, we had a record low number of fatalities in 2015, but even though the final numbers are not in, it seems pretty apparent that, adjusted for the loss of mining jobs across all sectors, we probably haven’t improved at all. The point of this is not to diminish what the Act has done for the industry, but rather, to point up the fact that at this point, reliance on the Act alone just has us doing the same things over and over. Doing the same things over and over will not get us where we want to go. The Act is almost 50 years old remember, it’s essentially an amendment of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969). Failing to take advantage of the tools of the 21st Century is cheating our miners out of the best we have to offer them and, too often, the ideologies and entrenched views of some get in the way of improvement. We cannot let the Act be an impediment to improvement and we need to re-adjust our thinking to tackle the kinds of accidents and incidents that continue to bedevil us as well as the rest of industrial America. We put people on the moon using technology that didn’t exist when the promise was made. Why not apply to our journey to zero. I only know that we don’t know what tool will ultimately be the most successful, but unless we start trying some, we are, I am afraid, spending more time mourning our failures than celebrating our successes.

Mark N. Savit
Attorney at Law
Jackson Lewis P.C.

Mark Savit is an attorney and shareholder in the Denver, Colorado office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Mr. Savit counsels clients in government investigations, and on regulatory matters to help limit civil liabilities, prevent criminal prosecutions, and promote sound health, safety and environmental policies. Mr. Savit has expertise in health and safety law, industrial disaster response and environmental law and related litigation and legislative services. Mr. Savit began his career at the Department of the Interior where he headed the special investigation unit of the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), predecessor of MSHA.