The Utah Mine Safety Commission continues to take testimony to help them in their task of compiling a report for Gov. Jon Huntsman regarding the role of the state in mining.
Darwin Guymon gave a report to the commission at a recent meeting. He said he has had mine experience as a set-up boss, he has roof bolted, dusted, and been a construction boss, face boss, front line production foreman. He began working at the College of Eastern Utah in September of 1987 in the mining department where he trains mine rescue and fire fighters.
Guymon said in every vocation a language is developed. In mining, the top is the ceiling, the ribs are the walls and the bottom is the floor. Someone is needed that can understand the miners' language. Safety needs to be a way of life for miners.
Guymon said training should address today's trends and miners should be tested more rigorously and the test questions should be challenging but passable. Mine foremen need a lot of training in all areas, sometimes their job can be overwhelming. Those with a higher level of responsibility need a higher level of training.
Those dealing with mine gases should be highly trained.
Guymon said he could see the state getting more involved with the training and refresher courses for miners. One of the new laws for mine rescue teams states they need to be available within one hour of travel time to the mine site. When people are sent in they need to be trained to take care of whatever the situation is. Guymon has been a trainer for 20 years. Things need to be consistent from mine to mine. Like with the colors used for the return; red is the common color. This could be legislated to keep red for the return.
Guymon explained a little about mine air and its oxygen content. Coal absorbs oxygen and 19.5 percent oxygen is mandated. In emergency situations Guymon said men will react as they are trained, that is why it's important to keep the colors the same. He believes Utah could lead the way in implementing this.
When Guymon was a boss, health and safety were his main concerns. A safety culture needs to be developed. People running the equipment need to do so with safety in mind. People can't let their guard down.
Guymon believes the Mine Safety and Health Administration has a lot on their table and sometimes the little things get pushed aside. There needs to be adequate penalities for non-compliance. "We need to send people home in one piece," said Guymon.
He said these last years he has been involved in a good mining department. He thinks a centralized building to store mine rescue equipment could be helpful. He thinks those involved in the Western Energy Training Center are very capable people.
CEU used to have three degrees for engineering. Those in the engineering department should be put to use to help the need for engineers along.
Commission chairman Scott Matheson wondered how the process to merge CEU and the WETC is going. Guymon said the direction is good although there are somethings he doesn't approve of. He doesn't know why they are doing mining classes when he feels CEU is doing a good job. Guymon said with four instructors they have trained 2,000 students. Some of this training money comes from the state grants program. But, Guymon said the state grants monies are not enough. More money is needed for equipment. More money is needed to expand the training program. Currently new miners train 32 classroom hours and eight on site. This is minimal training and barely enough. "Funding is an issue," said Guymon.
Guymon would like to see more oral examinations to talk to the miners, to make sure they are understanding the material.
David Litvin, commission member wondered how a mining oversight officer for the state would work. Guymon viewed this person as a mediator and someone to get the facts, like in talking to miners who have concerns. This person would have to be someone who understands the language of coal mines. Communication would be the key with an oversight officer. This person would be someone the average miner could call or go to with concerns.
Guymon said what happened at Crandall Canyon was an exceptional thing. They were mining with an approved plan. It was an anomaly.
Guymon said the state person could work with bigger things, not the every day stuff.
Matheson wondered if there are positions in the mine that should have more certifications.
Guymon believes that is covered pretty well already.
The Utah Mine Safety Commission has released a list of topics that it will continue to research prior to producing a draft report that will make recommendations on what part the state should play in mine safety. Among the items under consideration are an expanded training program at the Western Energy Technology Center in Helper, appointment of a mine safety commissioner as a watchdog or ombudsman, improved communication with federal mine safety officials, tax incentives for operations to implement new technology and training, and require state certification and testing for new miners.
The commission would like to release interim recommendations prior to the start of the legislative session in mid-January and final recommendations after the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration issues its report on the Crandall Canyon mine disaster.
Governor Jon Huntsman created the commission to investigate the state's role in mine safety following the collapse of the mine on August 6 that trapped six miners. Three rescuers died in a cave-in 10 days later.
Commission Chairman Scott Matheson said the topics are intended as a guideline for further study and not everything on the list would make the final cut.