Houghton takes up Utah mine safety seat

AFTER sitting empty for 16 months, the seat of director for the Utah Labor Commission’s Office of Coal Mine Safety has been filled by 36-year mining industry veteran David (Kent) Houghton.
Houghton takes up Utah mine safety seat Houghton takes up Utah mine safety seat Houghton takes up Utah mine safety seat Houghton takes up Utah mine safety seat Houghton takes up Utah mine safety seat

Utah Office of Coal Mine Safety director David (Kent) Houghton.

Donna Schmidt

Houghton’s past employment includes many coal mining operations in Carbon and Emery counties in Utah.

The ULC said his experience was “comprehensive and diverse” and confirmed the new director had a thorough understanding of the mining industry’s problems and headwinds.

The Price native will now be responsible for monitoring coal mine safety and will also act as Utah liaison with the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.

While the ULC did not confirm Houghton’s employment classification, the Salt Lake Tribune said this week he would be holding the seat on a part-time basis and would be compensated $US32 per hour with no benefits.

“The coal mining industry is of vital importance to the nation’s energy needs, and is equally important to the state and local communities for jobs and the economic development the industry brings,” Houghton said.

“The Office of Coal Mine Safety can best serve the state and the industry by providing leadership in the areas of safety, training, education, technical development and disaster planning.

“This will help the coal mine industry meet their safety objectives and provide for the safety of the coal miners.”

The one-person Office of Coal Mine Safety was formed in 2008 on the recommendation of the Utah Mine Safety Commission, following the 2007 cave-in at Murray Energy’s Crandall Canyon mine in Emery County where six mine workers and three rescue workers were killed.

The OCMS has been designed to maximize coal mine safety, prevent coal mine accidents, and provide effective coal mine accident response for the state’s mines.

Industry veteran Garth Nielsen was the first to hold the seat, and remained in the position for two years until resigning in March 2010 for a job with coal haulage firm Savage Industries.

The position then sat vacant, largely due to commission budget cuts.

“We were able to fulfill the requirements of the statute [creating the office] with existing personnel,” labor commissioner Sherrie Hayashi told the Tribune, which reported that a 2011 funding request before the state legislature did not progress.

“But with the importance of filling that position, we managed to find some money.”

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