Coal Age

APR 2018

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32 April 2018 training Ideas from the Field Training responsible persons to lead and succeed by blaine p. connor and john gallick In a mine emergency, chaos can lead to tragedy. To take charge in an emergency, by law (30 CFR 75.1501), coal mines must designate an on-site "responsible person" (RP). The RP's duties include ordering min- ers to evacuate, notifying the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and others for help, and establishing an orderly overall response. Analyzing past disasters, MSHA reasoned that mines could achieve better outcomes if everyone at the mine knows who is in charge and if that person knows current mine conditions and sound emergency management practices. In 2008, MSHA ordered that all RPs be trained annually in an approved mine emergency management curriculum (Fed- eral Register 2008, vol. 73, no. 27). The MSHA standard specified 11 elements to this curriculum, and MSHA released In- structional Guide 110, "Responding to a Mine Emergency," to give mines the tools to offer solid, compliant training. But opera- tors have flexibility both in who they desig- nate as RPs and how they train them, so that their decisions suit the local conditions. NIOSH is actively engaged in helping mines improve their ability to respond effec- tively to emergencies, and initial emergency response is critical to a successful outcome, so understanding exactly how mines prep their RPs is important. We, therefore, inter- viewed six safety managers to see how they prepare their RPs to lead and succeed during the early stages of an emergency. Our Approach In open-ended interviews, we asked ques- tions including: Who are your primary RPs? Who else receives your RP train- ing? What changes to your training have you made since 2008? What equipment, checklists, and personnel are available to help the RP during an emergency? We also reviewed training materials, ERPs, and emergency-related checklists and forms, and visited training facilities and commu- nications centers. To ensure a deeper understanding of common themes, we interviewed a wide range of mine operations. One mine em- ployed fewer than 36 miners underground — another, more than 500. One mine was in the West, one in the Midwest and four in the East. Two operators were single-mine, the others multi-mine. They also differed by whether or not they had unions, long- wall, track, good top and so on. Our Findings Most managers trained more RPs than the bare minimum "If your goal is just meeting 30 CFR, that's pretty easy — just train six people," said one manager whose mine ran three shifts a day. But five of the six managers trained far more than that. Why? An obvious reason is to prevent a sit- uation where no trained RP was available. The law requires a trained RP to be pres- ent for all shifts when miners are under- ground, even when the numbers might be few, such as Christmas Eve. Sometimes the RP takes a day off or has to go some - where with limited direct communication, like the bleeders. If these situations line up on a given shift, the mine might need a fourth, fifth or sixth person ready to go. But the managers we talked to trained people they never expect to designate as the RP. They did so to have a larger corps of people who can better assist in an emer- gency because they have gained, as one manager put it, "a broader perspective of [the RP's] system and what he's got to do." One such group of people are the sur- face communication personnel. None of the mines we spoke with expected surface communication personnel to be their pri- mary or secondary RP — those roles went to the top underground supervisor, such as a shift foreman, and the next person in line underground. Yet all six safety manag- Some responsible person training includes hands-on activities. (Photo: NIOSH)

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