Keeping youths away from quarries, mines

By |  September 9, 2015
Stay Out-Stay Alive visits South Park, Pa., Middle School

Deborah Tomko, right, teaches South Park, Pa., students
about Stay Out-Stay Alive in May 2013.

People sometimes trespass into quarries and mines throughout the summer.

The Express-Times based in Lehigh Valley, Pa., published an editorial Aug. 25 about actions quarry owners should take to deter trespassers. Hiring personnel as quarry monitors and adding video surveillance are two of the publication’s suggestions.

While quarry monitors and video surveillance aren’t likely to fit into an aggregate producer’s budget, there are other courses of action producers can take to deter trespassers. Pit & Quarry connected with Amy Louviere and Deborah Tomko of the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) to get their perspectives on what producers can feasibly do to impede trespassers – particularly youths.

A good starting point to understand the dilemma is to understand where people trespass. Tomko, MSHA’s supervisor of environmental assessment and contaminants, says the ways people trespass and the types of mines they trespass on usually vary by state and region.

“I know out in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin you see a lot of cases of drownings in quarries that you might not hear about as often in the West,” Tomko says. “But in the West, you see a lot more cases of people trespassing in abandoned mines.”

Louviere, MSHA’s media coordinator, says MSHA created the Stay Out-Stay Alive initiative in 1999 as a way to warn youths of the dangers of trespassing in mines. The initiative allows MSHA to partner federal and state agencies, businesses and private organizations to educate students on the dangers of trespassing into quarries and mines.

“The assistant secretary of MSHA at the time was alarmed over the number of people drowning in quarries,” Louviere says. “He thought that even though this is not necessarily part of our jurisdiction, we should be doing some public awareness campaign to draw attention to this and deter people from entering these sites.”

Both Louviere and Tomko recommend quarry producers get the message out to schools about the dangers of trespassing on quarry properties. They suggest explaining some of the dangers of trespassing into a mine, such as unstable ground or deep pools of water.

Because kids tend to wander around their surrounding communities mostly in summer, Tomko says the best time to educate students on the dangers of trespassing into mines and quarries is March, April or May – before school lets out for summer vacation. She also suggests working with younger students between kindergarten and fifth grade, as they tend to listen and take advice better than older students.

“With kids I talk to, I bring my personal protective equipment and clothing,” Tomko says. “I might also let them try some of the equipment on. I think this also makes for a good time to talk to kids about what miners do on a day-to-day basis and the positive aspects of mining.”

Tomko adds that it’s unknown how many lives the Stay Out-Stay Alive initiative may have saved over the past 16 years, but she hopes it has discouraged some kids from trespassing into mines.

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of Pit & Quarry. Contact her at msmalley@northcoastmedia.net or 216-363-7930.

Comments are closed