Coal Age

NOV 2018

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Page 38 of 51

November 2018 37 operating ideas Using Performance Management Strategies to Improve Mine Emergency Training and Preparedness by margaret e. ryan, jason diamond, michael j. brnich and cassandra hoebbel The MINER Act of 2006 called for sig- nificant improvements to emergency response training and preparedness at U.S. underground coal mines. Yet, re- sults from a recent survey on self-escape competency by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggest that underground coal mineworkers may still be underprepared for self-escape. These findings can moti- vate safety trainers to identify strategies for improving the workforce's self-escape preparedness for every worker during every shift in the event of an underground mine emergency. While the MINER Act requires assess- ment of self-escape competency, it pro- vides no standardized definition of the specific self-escape competencies that all mineworkers must have, no standardized competency-based training methods or tools, nor any guidelines on how to as- sess them. In the 2013 report, "Improv- ing Self-Escape From Underground Coal Mines," the National Academy of Sciences urges the industry to adopt a "train-to- mastery" system with competency-based standards instead of focusing on fulfilling time-based training requirements. To that end, competency-based self-escape train- ing and assessment focuses on outcomes, such as the mastery of critical self-escape knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs), thus placing the emphasis on task perfor- mance and individual proficiency instead of training duration. The National Acade- my of Sciences report noted that this shift toward a train-to-mastery system would help improve self-escape training and, in turn, improve self-escape preparedness. In response to the report recommen- dations, NIOSH identified the critical self-escape competencies and adminis- tered the Self-Escape Competency Survey under a research protocol approved by the NIOSH Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which assessed coal minework- ers' self-escape confidence in 28 identi- fied critical self-escape KSAs. The results from this effort appeared in the 2018 Jan- uary-February Coal Age article, "The ABCs of KSAs: Assessing the self-escape knowl- edge, skills and abilities of coal minework- ers." The next step is to determine how mine companies can use the identified critical self-escape KSAs to adopt and im- plement competency-based training and assessment strategies to improve mine- workers' self-escape preparedness, thus allowing the shift from a time-based to a train-to-mastery system. In this article, the authors report on one company's efforts to improve its mineworkers' self-escape competencies after participating in the NIOSH survey. The company has implemented compe- tency-based performance management strategies, including assessment and re- mediation processes, which it incorpo- rates into its mandated training to moni- tor and improve self-escape competence throughout the year. Survey Results and Industry Feedback In 2016-2017, eight underground coal mines in the eastern United States par- ticipated in NIOSH's Self-Escape Compe- tency Survey. The survey assessed mine- workers' self-reported confidence on 28 critical self-escape competencies identi- fied through a preliminary task analysis. Researchers collected surveys from 895 workers, including mineworkers, supervi- sors and safety personnel. After completing data collection at each mine, researchers compiled a com- prehensive mine-specific feedback report of findings for the operations to review, including workers' responses to the 28 self-escape competency items. Because mine safety personnel generally consid- ered their workers to be well prepared for self-escape, many were surprised when mineworkers' self-reported confidence suggested otherwise. When describ- ing their reaction to their survey results, mine safety personnel used terms such as "eye-opening," "surprising," "shocking" and "frustrating." Consol Energy (Consol), one of the mine operators that participated in the survey, operates three mine sites in western Pennsylvania that collectively employ more than 1,600 workers. Consol prepares its mineworkers to self-escape from a mine emergency through deliv- ering training and holding exercises that include smoke expectations and fire- fighting training. Jason Diamond coordinates all of the training for all three mine sites with the help of two to three individuals from Consol's mine rescue teams. Con- sol utilizes these individuals as key resources during training develop- ment and delivery, where they can draw upon lessons learned through their own experiences in emergencies to develop content. The mine's safety personnel readily agreed to participate in the current study, interested in learning what their work- force had to say. Like safety personnel at the other participating mine sites, Con- sol's safety manager described their sur- vey results as surprising when it became apparent that gaps in critical self-escape KSA knowledge remained, despite the company's past training efforts. First Steps: Addressing Identified Gaps in Self-escape KSAs In order to improve self-escape perfor- mance in the areas where gaps were identified from their survey results, safety personnel and mine trainers from Consol came together to brainstorm next steps. The company's training coordinator, corporate's general manager of safety, and two members of Consol's mine res-

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