Training plays a fundamental role in the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA's) effort to help protect the American miner from illness and injury on the job. Inspections alone cannot keep mines accident-free. Miners and their supervisors need knowledge in order to stay safe and healthy. They must be aware of how to perform their jobs safely, and must learn to recognize and control hazards in their work places.
Training can provide these key skills and knowledge. MSHA offers many different types of training assistance to the mining industry and to labor, including special assistance for small mining operations where safety and health training needs have been identified. At small mines (5 or fewer miners), which generally have a higher fatality rate than larger operations, selected MSHA training specialists provide specific training assistance to management and workers.
MSHA education and training officials also contribute significantly to the development of programs to assist mine operators in complying with Federal miner training requirements. Among other types of assistance, MSHA helps the industry with periodic mine rescue contests that test and improve skills of mine rescue and first aid teams that someday may be called upon during a mine emergency to carry out some of the most difficult emergency rescue work undertaken in this country.
The Mine Act and Mandatory Training
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) establishes training as an important tool for preventing accidents and avoiding unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. The Mine Act authorizes MSHA to "expand programs of education and training of operators...and miners..."
MSHA requires that each U.S. mine operator have an approved plan for miner training. This plan must include:
- 40 hours of basic safety and health training for new miners who have no underground mining experience, before they begin work underground;
- 24 hours of basic safety and health training for new miners who have no surface mining experience, before they begin work at surface mining operations;
- eight hours of refresher safety and health training for all miners, each year; and
- safety and heath related task training for miners assigned to new tasks.
MSHA's National Mine Health and Safety Academy (Mine Academy) near Beckley, WV, is the world's largest educational institution devoted solely to safety and health in mining. The Academy serves as the central training facility for federal mine inspectors, mine safety professionals from other government agencies, the mining industry, and labor.
Courses are offered on safety and health inspection procedures, accident prevention, investigations, industrial hygiene, mine emergency procedures, technology, management techniques, and other topics.
Besides providing classroom instruction, the Mine Academy staff produces DVDs, films, publications, and a wide variety of technical materials and training products. The Mine Academy also provides field training and serves as a technical resource to help meet the mining community's safety and health instructional needs. The Technical Information Center and Library provide the mining community and safety and health professionals with comprehensive and integrated information services.
The Mine Academy's physical plant has classrooms, a simulated mine, laboratories that can accommodate up to 600 students, a large auditorium, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, and a residence hall with dormitory space for over 174 persons.
Educational Field Services (EFS)
MSHA’s Educational Field Services (EFS) program is the Agency's resource for improving health and safety training for the mining industry. EFS promotes the importance of education and training in reducing mining injuries and workplace illnesses.
EFS training specialists work closely with mine management, miners’ representatives, miners and mine instructors to develop training programs to improve miner safety and health. These specialists coordinate Agency resources to best meet each mine's individual needs.
EFS also disseminates information to help miners better understand their rights and responsibilities under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Section 105(c) of the act prohibits discrimination against miners, applicants for employment and representatives of miners for exercising statutory rights, especially those rights that concern safety or health activities such as identifying hazards, requesting MSHA inspections or refusal to engage in unsafe work.
In addition to mine visits, EFS training specialists work with mining associations, safety organizations, labor unions and educational institutions to establish partnerships and network resources to improve mine safety and health.
Small Mine Consultation Program
MSHA’s Small Mine Consultation Program works with small mining operations to help them improve or develop safety and health programs tailored specifically to the needs of their miners and operations. These operations typically do not have the resources to employ full-time safety and health professionals. Small mines are those employing 5 or fewer employees and represent about 50 percent of all U.S. mining operations.
Small mine specialists work one-on-one at the mine site with the mine operator and miners and show them the business case for good safety and health practices. Small mine specialists also show small mine operators how to develop and maintain an effective safety and health program.
MSHA makes available many training publications, manuals, courses, DVDs, and other materials online, through the Mine Academy and the Agency's district offices. Some of the products available include:
- small mine operator safety kits to assist operators of small underground coal mines in controlling workplace hazards generally found at mines employing 50 or fewer workers;
- training tools to help miners better understand their rights and responsibilities under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, Section 105(c), which prohibits discrimination against miners, applicants for employment and representatives of miners for exercising statutory rights, especially those rights that concern safety or health activities such as identifying hazards, requesting MSHA inspections or refusal to engage in unsafe work;
- training materials on safe operation of powered haulage targeted for industry personnel who operate haulage trucks or other types of mobile surface mining equipment;
- training materials on health issues, including silicosis, diesel particulate matter, and pneumoconiosis (black lung). Some programs focus on "best practices" techniques developed cooperatively by labor, management and government groups;
- comprehensive training modules and DVDs on accepted job safety analysis methods and step-by-step miner task training procedures for use by supervisors and foremen in diverse types of mining;
- course materials that review basic ventilation principles and practices for underground coal mines;
- training programs featuring slides that illustrate fatal accidents in mining in recent years;
- a variety of online training resources; and
- a magazine published four or five times a year that features articles on topical health and safety issues
For more information on MSHA training programs, contact:
- Director, Educational Policy and Development, MSHA Headquarters, Arlington, VA, (202) 693-9570 Educational Policy & Development, Director's Office
- Superintendent, National Mine Health and Safety Academy, Beckley, WV,
(304) 256-3200 National Mine Health & Safety Academy
- Manager, Educational Field Services, MSHA Headquarters, Arlington, VA, (202) 693-9581 Educational Field Services (EFS)
- Eastern Region Manager
- Western Region Manager
- Manager, Small Mine Consultation Program, MSHA Headquarters, Arlington, VA, (202) 693-9594 Small Mines Website