Conversations Mike Davis

A conversation with Mike Davis of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration

By Ed O'Keefe
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mike Davis, deputy assistant secretary of operations for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, joined the agency in 1989 as a mine safety inspector. He's a fourth-generation miner and second-generation MSHA employee.

Q Why does someone become a mine safety inspector?

People that have a passion for that kind of work sometimes see MSHA as the next step up. They've got a passion for health and safety and mining, and they would like to pursue it further.

What qualifies someone to be a mine safety inspector?

We're looking for a well-rounded person that has background in the operations. Someone who's operated the equipment, that's been in the process of mining coal. It's good that we have people that have managed the workforce, but it's just more critical that we have people who've been engaged in the mining process.

Why must you have at least five years of experience in order to get hired as an inspector?

They have to be well rounded enough that if they know what the rules are, they know what the law is, they're trained to observe, to seek out these hazards. It's easier for someone to identify it if they've done it, someone that's mined the material, that's processed material, that's transported and knows the entire system.

So the mining community -- the companies, the workers, the federal inspectors -- are a tight-knit community?

Yes, very. People who enter into that business, it becomes a passion, a lifestyle. You're going to find that your inspectors typically come from a mining background. . . . You get a passion for working with these people and for staying in this environment. They're very down to earth people, they're hard to leave.

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