MSHA Taking 'Stay Out--Stay Alive' Message to Children

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, the United States has about 14,000 active and as many as 500,000 abandoned mines, and since 1999, nearly 300 people have lost their lives in recreational accidents at these properties. In an effort to prevent such losses, the agency this week launched its annual "Stay Out--Stay Alive" public safety campaign to warn outdoor enthusiasts--especially children--about the dangers of playing on mine property. It is the 11th consecutive year for the campaign, which began Monday and continues through May 25.

During the month-long campaign, MSHA and its partners are visiting schools, scouting groups, and other venues to talk to young people about the dangers of playing on active and abandoned mine property. Mines are located in every state, from small operations to complex underground mines and extensive surface operations that use some of the largest industrial equipment ever built. On average, 29 people lose their lives every year in recreational accidents on mine properties--mostly on the abandoned ones--and nearly half of all victims are between 15 and 25 years of age. Males comprise 85 percent of the fatality victims, and June and July are prime months for the incidents, with nearly half of the total occurring then.

"No matter how attractive they may appear, active and abandoned mines are not playgrounds. If you're not trained or authorized to enter the property, stay away," said Michael A. Davis, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for operations. "As we near the end of another school year and prepare for lots of outdoor activities, children and young adults must be aware of the potential dangers that exist."

MSHA notes that old surface mines, which are popular spots for ATV enthusiasts, contain hills of loose materials or refuse heaps that can easily collapse and cause deadly rollovers. Underground mines can have hidden shafts, flooded or airless sections, or deadly gases; tunnels can cave-in; and unused or misfired explosives can be set off by the slightest disturbance or touch.

Water-filled quarries--the mines that claim the most lives every year, with drowning accounting for 63 percent (or two out of three) of the non-occupational mining fatalities over the past 10 years--have slippery slopes and unstable rock ledges, and the water may conceal old machinery and sharp objects left behind after a mining operation closes. Even expert swimmers may encounter trouble in the dangerously cold and deceptively deep waters.

MSHA says dozens of federal and state agencies, private organizations, businesses, and individuals are active partners in "Stay Out--Stay Alive." For more information about the national campaign, visit www.msha.gov.

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