Training the trainers

THE National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released a training package it hopes will meet a need during a volatile time of staffing transition in the US mining industry.
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Donna Schmidt

As one wave of workers retires and another wave rushes in to fill the voids at operations, maintaining the best practices and skills is imperative for production and safety.


NIOSH sociologist Launa Mallett said regardless of the type of operation, those experienced workers training new employees must pass on the correct skills and methods and the new NIOSH program can assist them in training those new workers in the best way.


Mallett and a team of researchers at the NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory have taken more than a half decade to produce and release the user-friendly program, entitled “Coaching Skills for On-the-Job Trainers,” to aid in that effort.


On-the-job training, or OJT, is a common type of training regardless of industry; “however, to be effective, training must go beyond the simple process of having a new worker follow an experienced person around the workplace,” the project team said.


“We’ve been working for about five years, looking at the changes in the workforce – foreseeing, and in some parts of the country, already happening – [with] baby boomers leaving, younger employees coming in," Mallett told International Longwall News. "One of the many things we determined during that project is we needed ways to transfer knowledge from more experiences employees to new people, whether that’s new to mining or new to specific jobs.”


Mallett said the program was intended for hands-on use underground.


“The purpose of this is to train experienced employees who are good at their jobs how to teach people new to their jobs,” she said.


“If someone at an operation who operated a roof bolter, for example, is asked to be a task trainer for a new worker, [this will] give you knowledge and skills on how to improve your training capabilities and provide preparation to pass on the best practices in the correct manner.”


The program, available as a download on the NIOSH web site, is comprised of various file types for convenience and is made up of five major sections.


Intended to be a one-day training module, these areas include how to develop a coaching program, conducting workshops, an area with notes an instructor can use for workshops as well as slides for use, and a student workbook that can be used in both the long- and short-term for reference.


“There’s a section on adult education and how people learn [as well as] things like how to ask good questions and give good feedback,” she said, adding that it was during this time of staff transition at operations that the need to qualify and train good trainers was even more important.


One of the best parts about the program, Mallett said, was a mine’s ability to use it and customise it to its specific needs.


The materials can be used to train coaches and to assist trainees as they go through the process of learning new jobs and tasks. Content related to specific jobs can be added to create targeted OJT manuals.


The feedback received from the NIOSH field tests of the program has been very positive. “Before we produce anything, we take it into the field and practice and test them and then revise them at actual mine locations,” she said, which included tests at mines and open workshops.


“We’ve taken it out and done the first step of introducing it and training safety [personnel], and it’s their intention, then, to take it to their mine sites.”


Mallett said that as time goes on, she and her team intend to perform short- and long-term follow-ups on the successes of the program and request feedback so that the program may be continuously improved.