THE HEALTH and safety of American workers is a primary concern of this administration. With this concern in mind, one of my very early legislative recommendations was in the area of coal mine health and safety. This has culminated today in my signing of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. The health and safety provisions of this act represent an historic advance in industrial practices.
However, I do have reservations about certain serious issues raised by the act. In signing it I wish to bring to the attention of the Congress and the Nation three points I consider to be of major importance:
First, workmen's compensation has been and should be a State responsibility. Title IV of this act gives the Federal Government responsibility in this area. I want to emphasize very strongly that Title IV is temporary, limited, and unique and in no way Should it be considered a precedent for future Federal administration of workmen's compensation programs. With the exception of continuing benefit payments to claimants establishing eligibility during the period prior to December 31, 1972, all Federal responsibility in this area will expire within 7 years.
Next, this act creates confusion about the consistency of standards in federally administered disability programs. I have therefore instructed the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in administering this program to apply wherever possible standards consistent with those under the existing Social Security Act disability program.
Finally, the act may present problems of administration that require legislative changes. If such problems arise, I will propose corrective legislation.
While I have these concerns about the problems presented by the act, I have great pride in this historic legislation. It represents a crucially needed step forward in the protection of America's coal miners.