The agency said Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones is 2010’s spokesperson for the public safety campaign, which was established in 1999 to warn outdoor enthusiasts, especially children, about hazards at active and abandoned mining operations.
Jones, who was raised in the coalfields region of southwestern Virginia, has recorded a series of audio and video public service announcements that describe the hidden dangers that exist at abandoned mines and quarries.
"Both my parents were coal miners, and they instilled in me a respect for the hazards they often encountered while working underground," Jones said.
"If you haven't been properly trained as a miner, you have no business being anywhere near a quarry, gravel pit or mine."
MSHA assistant secretary for mine safety and health Joseph Main said the NFL player was the ideal individual to be the face for the campaign because of his history as part of a coal mining family, and also because professional athletes often serve as role models for children.
According to MSHA, dozens of fatalities are reported each year involving recreational accidents at active and abandoned mine sites.
Drowning is the most common by far, accounting for three out of five deaths over the last decade.
“Abandoned water-filled quarries harbor slippery slopes and unstable rock ledges,” the agency said.
“The water can conceal old machinery and sharp objects left behind after a mining operation closes. Even expert swimmers may encounter trouble in the dangerously cold and deceptively deep waters.”
Statistics also revealed that, since 1999, nearly half of all drowning victims reported in these incidents were between 15 and 25 years old.
Old surface sites also create hazards, as they are popular destinations for all-terrain vehicles and motorcyclists. However, abandoned mines often contain hills of loose materials or refuse heaps that can easily collapse and cause deadly rollovers.
“Surface mining landscapes are constantly changing, resulting in poor visibility of cliffs and steep ledges,” MSHA pointed out.
“These hazardous conditions make vehicle accidents at surface mines the second most common cause of fatalities on mining properties.”
Underground workings are another serious hazard for recreationalists, as sites can have hidden shafts, flooded or airless sections, or deadly gases.
Tunnels are susceptible to cave-ins, and there is a potential for unused or misfired explosives to be set off by even the slightest disturbance or touch.
The agency has made the public service announcements and other resources for "Stay Out-Stay Alive" available on its web site.