Mike Dalpiaz from the United Mine Workers of America spoke at the recent safety conference in Price.
The UMWA representative defined the role an individual plays in mine safety.
Dalpiaz began his coal mining career in 1971. He worked eight years in the mines, then decided to take a new direction in his career.
After being elected to the UMWA, Dalpiaz served as the vice president of Utah, Wyoming and Arizonar.In 1995, the executive board member became the international vice president of the western United States.
At the conference, Dalpiaz indicated that he wished there were more workers represented in the audience. He said safety must be applied on a personal level.
Dalpiaz stressed the importance of listening to the workers as far as safety is concerned.
According to the UMWA representative, workers are non-productive if they are worried about safety. Workers also have an obligation to make sure the operation is run safely.
"If there is a problem, then find it and fix it. We don't need threats, but sometimes that happens," commented Dalpiaz. "Some operators choose production over safety. Some operators don't fix a problem until they're forced to fix it."
"You have a right to a safe work place. If a person sees something unsafe, they have the right to withdraw. You can't be retaliated against. You have the right to get another individual as a safety representative. You have the right to get the safety committee involved. You have the right to work safely," the UMWA representative stressed to the miners attending the conference.
If the safety problems don't get fixed, Dalpiaz advised the miners in attendance at the conference to call management with the concerns.
If management fails to address the problems, local coal industry workers should contact the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Carbon and Emery County workers may also call Garth Nielson at the Utah Office of Coal Mine Safety.
"We don't want scared workers," pointed out Dalpiaz. "I've talked to the families of the Crandall Canyon miners and there was one common thread - they were scared. They were scared of repercussions.Â That mountain was doing things it had never done before."
The UMWA representaive indicated that he likes to see an open door policy with safety, but that is not always the case.
Workers need to become involved in mine safety and companies need to listen to employees.
MSHA is the federal coal industry watch dog and the state has become more involved in coal mining safety.Â
Some people complain that MSHA nitpicks, explained Dalpiaz. But federal officials have been sleeping at the switch. MSHA has been doing small things and making improvements. But the federal agency has many more improvements to make
Dalpiaz compared the enforcement in mining to the "fish cops" and checking stations he saw when he was deer hunting.
"This state is paying more attention to deer and elk than coal mining," said the UMWA representative. "They drive around in fancy trucks and lights. They didn't give Garth the tools he needs."
"The state of Utah has its priorities wrong," he continued. "I wonder how much money the fish and game makes? It shouldn't be all about economics. We mine 22 to 25 million ton of coal a year - that has to be worth something."
Dalpiaz indicated that MSHA's anonymous tip line is not really anonymous. He said people contacting the federal agency via the telephone service have to give their locations.
Due to the situation, miners reporting concerns via the tip line are afraid of retaliation.
"You hear safety over production, but that's not true - those are just one liners," continued the UMWA executive board member. "Talking to the employees and getting their opinions is free.Â Check it out. Look at their problems and fix them."
Dalpiaz said the workers worry about incidents going in their files. Everything is written up and put in files. It's a fear factor for employees.
Employees also report near misses which employers shouldn't use in a wrong manner, he noted. If employees are nervous and always looking over their shoulders, that is unsafe.
In addition to serving as western U.S. vice president for the UMWA, Dalpiaz is the mayor of Helper.
He indicated that Helper officials tell the town's employees that it they don't feel good about safety, the city will remedy the problem.
"It is a good policy. When they bring something to our attention, we praise them. We put a thank you letter in their file and reward them. That is a morale booster; that works better than punishment. Get together and work as a team. Let's work together to solve the problems," emphasized the UMWA representative.
Dalpiaz also serves on the advisory board of the Utah Coal Mine Safety Office.