Kentucky names new OMSL head

JERRY “Freddie” Lewis Sr has been appointed executive director of the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, filling a position that has been vacant since Johnny Greene retired almost three months ago.

Donna Schmidt

The agency told ILN Friday that Lewis, manager of safety and training for Alliance Coal before his appointment, worked for more than nine years in the Pikeville OMSL office during his career as a mine safety analyst, inspector and rescue team member as well as an instructor.

“Mine safety is a top priority in this cabinet and I have every confidence that Freddie Lewis will help us focus on making sure our miners go to work each day with the knowledge that we value their health and welfare,” Kentucky energy and environment cabinet secretary Len Peters said.

“His background in mine safety will, I believe, ensure we accomplish that goal.”

The OMSL director responsibilities includes the oversight of all underground and surface mines across the state as well as training and the investigation of accidents.

Department for Natural Resources commissioner Steve Hohmann confirmed the program put in place last year by the OMSL relating to mine safety analysts conducting on-site meetings to reiterate diligence in the workplace would continue under Lewis’ direction.

“We can never back down from making sure our miners are safe,” Hohmann said.

“One of the biggest challenges Freddie faces is the continued diligence of his agency in implementing the drug testing program to keep the mines drug-free.”

Green retired at the end of 2011, and the OSML said in its early December announcement that it would immediately commence a search for his replacement.

Kentucky, consistently one of the top five US producers annually, had one of the worst fatality records in 2011 with seven. The nation recorded 21 in all last year in coal.

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