The mood was serious in the moot court auditorium of the S.J. Quinney Law school on the University of Utah campus on Tuesday as a U.S. Mine Safety adminsitrator sought to provide answers to questions raised previously by the governor's blue-ribbon panel on mine safety.
"We have a common goal here as a state agency or as a federal agency; if we're protecting the miners we can do the little things needed to make it safer for miners," said Kevin Stricklin, MSHA's administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health program, in testimony before the Utah Mine Safety Commission. "We're in a negative industry. We're measured on the amount of fatalities, the number of injuries, the number of violations issued. It's the negative numbers that we're measured by."
Stricklin said despite difficulties inspecting and reviewing accidents like Crandall Canyon, MSHA is dedicated to doing everything possible to monitor and improve overall mine safety.
Stricklin was subbing for his boss, assistant Secretary of Labor and MSHA administrator Richard Stickler, who's long-awaited testimony in front of the commission had to be postponed because of a family death.
Stricklin last appeared before the commission on August 29th barely three weeks after the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse that fatally trapped six miners. Three other men also lost their lives during a subsequent failed rescue effort.
During his testimony, Stricklin said he believes accident investigations would work better if states and federal personnel collaborated in their efforts.
"We would hope that by coordinating our efforts, we would see accidents, injuries, illnesses and fatalities decrease," he said. "The greatest level of safety can be achieved when states and MSHA work toward that common goal."
He added that MSHA is willing to work with any state agency or anybody that wants to reach the goal of improved mine safety.
Stricklin's remarks regarding cooperation were in direct response to concerns raised by the Utah panel that MSHA has been unwilling to share information on their current probe into the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster.During a question and answer period, both former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn and state senator Mike Dmitrich (D-Price) implored Stricklin and his agency to make a greater effort to share information during accident investigations like Crandall Canyon. Garn, also offered to contact congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. if MSHA ran into roadblocks due to federal bureaucracy as the agency worked to address issues related to improving mine safety in Utah.