NSW Coal Services to help lift US health & safety

NEW South Wales-based Coal Services will be introducing its expertise and training services to main players in the US mining industry to help it lift health and safety standards and open new markets for Australian-developed training technology.

Lou Caruana

Coal Services chairman Ron Land is in Washington DC where he is being hosted by Australian ambassador to the US Kim Beazley as part of a two week trip to North America including meetings with key mining industry representatives.

Australia is a health and safety leader in the elimination of coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP) or “black lung disease”, which has been eradicated from the Australian coal industry; mines rescue; mine gas monitoring/analysis; and the use of virtual reality to train underground and open cut mine workers, Land said.

“As a primary supplier in New South Wales of coal industry occupational health and safety services, we are very pleased to represent Australia in the American market, and we believe this visit provides a great opportunity to position our country as a world leader in the field of mine safety,” he said.

The US program concludes with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) convention in Las Vegas, where Coal Services is a guest speaker. Around 400-500 delegates are expected to attend this convention, in which Coal Services’ Virtual Reality Training (VRT) system will be showcased.

“The percentage of US coal miners workforce with CWP has risen from 5% in 2000 to over 10% in 2006 for mineworkers with over 25 years industry experience,” said Land.

“US deaths from CWP have been rising since the mid-1990s. Coal Services’ OH&S monitoring of industrial hygiene issues, for example dust, noise, vibration, lighting, is unique. Coal Services’ experience, services and technical expertise is world class. Note incidence of black lung in Australia compared to USA. NSW coal industry has not had any new CWP cases for 20 years. Regular health screening by Coal Services has assisted in identifying early signs of problems.

“Coal Services is also a world leader in mines rescue. It provides emergency rescue services and also provides majority of induction and refresher training for mine safety. After a major investment in technology and facilities including VR theatres, there is a significant transferability of technology from Australia to USA to improve their safety outcomes due to our world class immersive technology and module development.”

A presentation in the Australian embassy to be hosted by Beazley will focus on Coal Services’ VRT as an innovative, award winning training system designed for people working in hazardous environments. Coal Services is currently exploring the market potential for VRT in overseas markets such as the US and China.

Throughout this visit Land will meet with politicians, mines rescue trainers, and key players in the Coal Industry from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and various coal operators’ associations.

The North America program also includes a visit to the offices of the Governor of West Virginia, to showcase Coal Services VRT training services. Governor Joe Manchin III is one of the most respected governors in the US.

At Montcoal in Raleigh County, West Virginia, 29 miners lost their lives at the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster on 5 April, 2010 following an underground explosion. Governor Manchin played a lead role in the aftermath of the explosion and in subsequent efforts to implement more stringent safety controls in US mines.