KEMI to kick off annual mine rescue contest

LARGE mine rescue supporter Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance is putting the shine on its plans for the third annual KEMI Mine Safety and Training Competition this summer.

Donna Schmidt

Published in the May 2010 Coal USA Magazine

Scheduled for July 13-15 in its home venue of Pikeville, Kentucky, the event includes pre-shift mine examiner, mine emergency technician, bench and mine rescue contests. The popular gathering is expected this year to include more than 30 teams from six states, home to large and small mines.

KEMI mine safety expert Daven Hoskins told Coal USA that the company, which provides workers’ compensation insurance to both coal and non-coal businesses, had served as sponsors for various competitions in coal-rich Kentucky for some time before developing the idea to host its own event.

The first event in 2008 received such a tremendous response and support from operators and competitors that it has since become an annual event with interest growing each year.

“We place a special emphasis on the pre-shift competition because each day, a certified mine foreman is responsible for identifying potential safety hazards before other miners go underground,” Hoskins said of the event.

“KEMI’s philosophy resonates with that approach; we want to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.”

The company was already sponsoring events when Hoskins, a long-time veteran of the industry, left his position as an underground mine safety analyst, underground mine inspector and roof control specialist for a district office of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals to join KEMI.

Bringing his many years of experience to the fold from the frontlines underground as well as management, Hoskins felt the company had a vested interest in the safety of miners whether they held policies with the group or not.

“Promoting safety is beneficial to the industry as a whole, so we opted against charging entry fees and opened the event up to any coal company willing to come and learn,” he said.

The company considers the event much more than just an annual gathering of mine rescue crew members seeking to polish their skills and be rewarded for their dedication. Staff receives feedback each year regarding the competition’s promotion of a united focus on mine safety.

“I have been around coal for over 30 years, including more than 10 years serving on a mine rescue team,” Hoskins said.

“I know from personal experience that, as a coal miner, it is comforting to know that there were well-trained rescue teams ready to go and willing to do everything within their power to rescue you in the event of an accident underground.”

KEMI has already received a great response from teams wishing to compete in the 2010 contest.

Spokesperson Ryan Worthen said the company’s primary hope is that each registrant will take something away from the competition that can make them a better rescuer and help prevent future injuries or fatalities.

“We also hope that through the KEMI competition, the message of mine safety travels beyond the communities represented by our participating teams,” he said.

Looking into the future of mine rescue, Hoskins, Worthen and KEMI president Roger Fries agreed that technology is and will continue to play a primary role in the advancement of skills and capabilities.

“Communication and tracking systems are constantly improving,” Fries noted.

“When you have an event that brings together the best of the best for mine safety, you have the ideal venue to test and discuss cutting-edge developments that could make a difference between life and death in certain emergency scenarios.”

The KEMI event takes many hours of preparation and planning, but Hoskins pointed out that the assistance from state and federal mine officials and the donations of time and supplies from regional coal companies help make the competition even more successful.

“Our competition provides invaluable training, and prepares teams to communicate and work together as one unit with one focus. From a new foreman up to a seasoned veteran, everyone can walk away from our event learning something new,” he said.

Crews wishing to participate are required to pre-register online or by contacting KEMI. The event is open to the public.

Getting to know: Daven Hoskins

  • Began working in coal in 1979 as a continuous miner helper at Harlan Cumberland Coal Company.
  • Worked as a CM operator for seven years, promoted to section foreman in 1986.
  • Promoted to mine superintendent 18 months later.
  • As superintendent for Bow Valley Coal Company, oversaw three underground mines and more than 100 staff.
  • Certified as a Kentucky mine inspector in 1993.
  • Was an underground mine safety analyst, underground mine inspector and roof control specialist for the state Department of Mines and Minerals from 1995 to 2005.
  • Member of state accident investigation team and a member/trainer of the Harlan District mine rescue team.
  • Certified Emergency Medical Technician and Mine Emergency Technician.
  • Joined KEMI in 2005 as a client services field representative and works primarily with coal-related businesses.