Learning from yesterday to ensure safe future

THE MINER Act, while beneficial to active miners through enhanced safety and rescue protocols, is helping the industry in other ways as well. Thanks to miner training and education funds, the newly awarded Brookwood-Sago grants can help strengthen the miners of today and tomorrow.

Donna Schmidt

Earlier this month, seven recipients of the grants - totalling $US500,000 and expected to be an annual disbursement - were announced as the first to earn monies that will help in worker development. Two spoke with International Longwall News about their plans.

West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training

The WVOMHST was awarded $50,000 on October 1 and will collaborate with the West Virginia University Mining Extension Service to establish an Emergency Preparedness Manual for use by underground mines.

"From past input and experience, a special section of the manual would be devoted to the command/operations centre and the incident command system," said Mining Extension Service director and former WVOMHST head James Dean.

"The manual would be developed from data that we collect from mine operators and federal and state mining officials that have been involved in mine emergencies.

"This data, as well as researched information, would be the basis of the manual."

Dean added that the grant is expected to have far-reaching impacts on the work of both organisations: "While the dollar amount of the funding is not high, we feel that the impact will be significant on the mining community, coupled with the emergency preparedness training activities conducted by the Mining Extension Service."

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy

DMME was awarded $85,000, which DMME representative Michael Abbott said the organisation has big plans for.

"We plan to develop, computerise and implement a Mine Emergency First Responder Certification Training Program," he said.

"The goal of this program is to train and certify a minimum of one person on each shift at each mine on first response procedures to follow for mine emergencies and to encourage and facilitate this training and certification for all underground personnel.

"One person trained as a Mine Emergency First Responder on each shift at each mine will enhance the overall capability of miners to make and execute critical decisions during the first response to a mine emergency situation that could very well be life saving."

The grant, Abbott added, will allow for the office to develop and computerise the program, and could have a great impact on the agency as well as the mining community beyond Colorado's borders. The DMME, he noted, has already received national recognition for the quality of its efforts, and it hopes this project will be an extension of that.

"This program could be utilised for mine emergency training on a national level even if not implemented as a certification program in other states," he said.

"When completed, this program will be made available to all national underground trainers."

The industry is in need of workers who have more extensive technical knowledge of mine emergency skills as well as the ability to take the leadership reins. Also, more effective training is needed to improve capabilities for decision-making in critical situations.

"Mine emergency leadership skills, first response mine emergency reaction skills and technical knowledge on mine emergency procedures are key ingredients in providing a safer working environment for miners that can result in fewer injuries and lives lost during a mine emergency," Abbott said.

Twelve organisations initially applied for the Brookwood-Sago grants. Besides the Virginia DMME and WVOMHST, the following were chosen to receive funding:

College of Eastern Utah - $54,000 for mine emergency training;

Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining & Safety - $53,000 for training materials for mine emergencies;

Pennsylvania State University - $135,000 for mine emergency training;

United Mine Workers of America Career Center - $73,000 for mine emergency training; and

Vincennes University of Indiana - $50,000 for mine emergency training.