Retired industry professionals address [mining] training gap – by Heather Campbell (Northern Ontario Business – January 4, 2013)

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A trio of Sudbury mining veterans, Dennis Shannon, Mike Mooney and Otto Rost, have teamed up to establish the National Mine Safety Training Centre (NMSTC). There are a lot of contractors working in the mines today who are not necessarily trained for a mine environment, said Shannon, NMSTC’s president.

Proper training ensures their safety and limits the liability of their employers.

Shannon is a retired educator who taught ground control at both Cambrian College and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT). He and NORCAT past-president Darryl Lake founded the Ontario Centre for Ground Control Training and helped to create the first Ontario operating mine dedicated to training and product development.

Mooney, the chief financial officer, started two successful businesses – Ground Control, which he sold, and Shotcrete Plus, which continues as a father and son operation. Rost, the vice-president, is a design engineer who ran his own instrumentation and communication business. He has designed software for mine equipment monitoring that captures location, service, maintenance and availability.

Shannon said they are targeting small contractors who have training needs but few resources.

“There are literally hundreds of small contractors with a small number of employees. Most have limited resources, but all the liability and concerns of a big company. As experienced educators, we decided to put specific training packages together that ensure employee safety on the job,” said Shannon.

The initial courses they are offering cover supervisor training, ground control, blasting, mining methods and shotcrete training. Each course comes with an outline, testing, certification upon successful course completion, and electronic records of the individual worker’s training.

The supervisor training is quite extensive because of the responsibility and liability often associated with the position. NMSTC has developed two supervisor training courses, both 40 hours in duration and modelled on the Ontario Common Core programs for first line supervisors.

Based on Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) standards, the courses were developed with complete testing and mine regulation documentation. They include material on: following a safety program, preparing for emergencies, following health and hygiene procedures, effective communication, managing work area activities, managing employees, reading and following mine layouts and plans, identifying geological features and supervising ground control installations, and assessing, controling and deploying ventilation systems in the workplace.

The Ground Control course is available in three levels; introductory, experienced and supervisor. The introductory course starts with the basics of teaching workers to recognize areas of danger or elevated risk and take appropriate action for their safety.

The Mining Methods course is a comprehensive overview of the mining process from start to finish. All the major mining methods are examined, including open pit and strip, cut and fill, undercut and fill, room and pillar, various blast hole methods and development mining.

Each package has a DVD and self-directed computer-based elements, as well as being current with government regulations.

If companies want to establish their own training program, NMSTC can offer a train-the-trainer package, as well as custom tailored packages for specific needs.

All of the courses include tests to ensure that participants have understood the principles presented in the course. Tests are used as a learning opportunity to review course content, reinforce key elements of the course and act as an indicator of training rigour. Upon completion of a course, the participant receives a certificate that documents his or her successful completion of the training program.

The goal, as Shannon explains, is to allow contractors to provide employees with self-directed training when they need it and on an ongoing basis as required.

The trio could have let their wealth of knowledge and experience wither on the vine in retirement. Instead, they chose to put it to good use.

Having sat in courtrooms and observed judicial inquiries, most of their experience comes from the workplace itself, but they also have a grounding in the legal responsibilities of employers and the consequences they face when miners are injured.

“Most small businesses realize they have a responsibility to train their employees, but they also have to be mindful of their legal responsibilities. We want to make it possible for small contractors to address these two aspects of training. They need to have documentation for legal purposes and their employees have to understand the environment they are going into and know how to work safely. These two aspects go together,” said Shannon.