Mining Safety Hits a Milestone
April 16, 2018 - Virginia hit a milestone in mine safety. While there are no trophies for first place, this prize cannot be valued. March marked three years since the Commonwealth’s coal industry had a fatality.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s (DMME) Division of Mines ensures the safety of all coal miners in the Commonwealth. Although they have nationally recognized safety programs, a staff with a combined over one hundred years in the industry and a mission of zero accidents, Virginia Mine Chief Randy Moore says the milestone is mainly due to those mining the coal.
“We contribute these last three years without a death in our mines to the miners adopting a culture of safety,” said Moore. “Our programs at the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy are top notch and we are glad to be here for our most important resource—the miners.”
Top notch means nationally award winning. In fact, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) has recognized the program on more than one occasion.
The most recent addition to DMME’s mine safety program is a campaign to promote basic safety through brochures and hardhat stickers. They call it the “Topic of the Month”. “The Topic of the Month program has our inspectors at every mine just for safety talks every month,” said Moore. “We pick basic topics like safety around equipment and personal protective equipment and sit down with our workers to review.” This is in addition to the multiple safety inspections done at each mine in the Commonwealth every year.
The Commonwealth celebrated creating the first state mine rescue team in 2016. Members are DMME employees; inspectors, technical support, emergency managers, engineers and permit reviewers from both the coal and mineral mining groups in the agency.
“We saw the economic burden on coal companies and we wanted to act,” said Moore. “The team meets the federal backup team requirement and due to our locations in Lebanon and Big Stone Gap, increases response time to these mine sites. That’s important in an emergency.”
Since its creation, the team has answered non-emergency calls and been a service to companies needing trained rescue members to ensure the safety of their sites before sending their miners back to work. They have trained for hundreds of hours so they will be ready for any call. They have also made the roster of mine rescue competitions including the national competition hosted by the Mine Safety and Health Alliance in Beckley, West Virginia last October.
Perhaps the best evidence to mine safety in Virginia is the annual safety awards. Every year DMME recognizes mines that have had a record of no lost time accidents. A majority make the cut and get a visit from Moore, a plaque and a spot on the DMME Facebook page—that results in a record amount of views compared to other agency posts.
“We love to recognize our miners,” said Moore about the safety awards. “The days without an injury or fatality significantly outweigh the incidents and that should be recognized just as much, if not more.”
Safety awards presentations begin on mines sites in April and continue through June.
DMME’s Division of Mines also hosts a Small Mine Safety Service or SMSS. The SMSS is a group of trainers and technical specialists that ensure the smaller mines (50 employees or less) have adequate training and safety plans on site. In addition, the division’s Technical Section is a service to underground coal mine sites needing guidance on roofing, ventilation and electrical issues.
Moore says he is proud to have been able to see these milestones at DMME since he assumed the role of Virginia Mine Chief in 2011.
“It is a fact there are less miners working today but their accomplishments should not be ignored,” said Moore. “Whether there is one or one million miners on the job in Virginia, DMME will be here to make sure they have everything they need to work safely.”
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