Utah Labor Commission, mine safety office conduct conference
The first Utah mine safety conference was conducted at College of Eastern Utah on Oct. 22.
The conference was the first session scheduled by the Utah Office of Mine Safety.
The office was created by recommendation of the Utah Mine Safety Commission formed by Gov. Jon Huntsman in August 2007 after the Crandall Canyon mine accident.
Garth Nielson has served as the director of the coal mine safety office for three months. He welcomed the attendees to the inaugural event.
The mine safety office is housed within the Utah Labor Commission. Sherrie Hayashi is the director of the commission and answers directly to the governor..
The focus of the office of mine safety is on proactive prevention.
"We must use our experience and knowledge to prevent accidents. The people here today have vast experience. We must be good leaders and show our support for safety. Every day, we lead people into a new environment that no one has been in before; we have a good idea what is there, but every day in mining is different. We need to focus on prevention. Prevention can make our operations safer," pointed out Nielson.
"Safety is a culture. We can't rely on luck. Have you ever stopped and thought how many lives you have saved. You are too good at what you do to rely on luck," added Nielson.
The Utah office is working in conjunction with the United States Mine Safety Administration.
State officials work with MSHA on any incidents. There have been eight incidents so far this year.
"We would feel good to never have to go to any incidents," said Nielson. "Compliance is a focus, but also safety and prevention. We need to hold accountable anyone who doesn't want safety and doesn't work safely."
Nielson indicated that the state office has worked to create an advisory council and he has visited every mine.
During the visits to mines and the communities, he realized that individuals are the most important part in the industry.
The most important thing the office can do is to keep miners safe and make sure that family, friends and neighbors go home at the end of the day.
The mine safety office director said the conference would address a variety of subjects with nine speakers.
Nielson introduced Debbie King from the Price office of the Utah Labor Commission. She works with miner certification.
"The OCMS is a new office but certification has been around a long time," pointed out King. "There are always a lot of questions on where to get training. The state of Utah certifies for five positions including foreman both underground and surface;Â fire boss and electrician both underground and surface."
King's office doesn't provide the actual training. Instructors at WETC and private companies do.
The state's labor commission office in Price completes the local certification process.
The labor office also handles the annual eight-hour refresher course and the 32-hour new miner certifications.
Records are kept at the state for people passing any type of certification. Federal certification records are kept at MSHA's office in Denver, Colo.
Certifications expire. If people leave the profession for five years or longer, certifications will then expire. An individual can retest if a certification expires or is revoked.
If electricians miss the yearly refresher course, they have to recertify.
How to educate and train the next generation of miners to do their jobs well and safely is a concern, said King. The instruction consists of two major components - classroom and on the job training.
CEU has training programs as well as the Western Energy Training Center and independent instructors.
CEU offers 15 week training courses for the certifications.
It is important for experienced miners to pass along their knowledge to incoming miners before they retire, said King.
The question of why more miners aren't passing the certifications was discussed at the conference.
Officials indicated that a better job of preparing miners for the certifications must be done.
King said her job is to get the information out to the miners. The job of miners is to study and prepare for the certifications.
The labor commission has a webpage coming in the future where Castle Valley miners will be able to download a study guide and testing schedules.
The miners will also be able soon to check when their certifications expire.