Mine rescue workers test their skills – by Jason Warick (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – June 3, 2013)


Fred Anderson didn’t hesitate when called to the scene of a fire at the Patience Lake potash mine near Saskatoon. “Your training just kicks in,” Anderson said of the incident last month.

Fellow rescue worker Rob Burford said he wondered at first if it was yet another practice drill. “When we saw the smoke, we knew. The adrenalin got going,” Burford said.

A series of pipes on the top floor of a building was on fire. Before rushing in, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan workers donned their safety gear and assessed the situation. Only then did several of them enter the building and extinguish the fire. The damage was contained and no one was hurt.

“We practise a lot. It’s a big focus to ensure we’re ready for real-life situations,” Anderson said. Anderson, Burford and the other five members of the Patience Lake team got to practise even more over the weekend at the Saskatchewan Mining Association’s mine rescue skills competition at Prairieland Park. Teams of mine workers from across the province put out fires, rescued car accident victims and figured out how to survive encounters with poisonous gas in simulated drills. There was also an extensive written safety exam.

The competition had a social element, but the main purpose was to hone their skills in the event of a real emergency.

“We put them under some serious pressure here. They are walking into the unknown,” said Doug Poole, competition chair and safety co-ordinator at PotashCorp’s Allan operation.

The workers serve as electricians, mechanics or in other roles as their main job, but volunteer as emergency workers if needed.

“They choose to do this. I’m just so proud of these guys and they really support each other,” Poole said.

Larry Long, general manager at PCS Allan, was grateful to those who serve as rescue workers for the industry.

“It’s such an important commitment they make. They all know the risk. They could be in harm’s way,” Long said.

The Patience Lake team members said they enjoyed the competition, but were happy when it was over.

“We’re done. We’re gonna go for a beer,” Burford said.

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