Monday, October 08, 2007

Insider Compares Submarining and Coal Mining

Every time there is a mining accident, submariners have another reason to pause and wonder about the mining industry's safety practices. In the past 9 months, underground mining fatalities have claimed 16 lives, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Admin. data show. Since 1900, the agency says, coal mines have claimed more than 104,600 lives. In 1998, the UMW had about 240,000 members all told.

Previously, mine mazes gave recruits introduction to safety fundamentals hundreds of feet below ground in 40-hour training programs. Now, 360-hour programs are used to improve safe mining practices. More than 200 new miners have completed the longer, nine-week training course that has a 2-month waiting list.
Has Waychoff (photo) graduated to green hat (Safety Coordinator perhaps)? Who is responsible for safety on a submarine?

Red hats is what mining apprentices are called (from the color of helmets they must wear) before becoming full-fledged black hats. During his six years on a Navy sub, Charles Waychoff underwent training three days a week, six hours at a time on how to handle fires, flooding or low oxygen - the very life-or-death issues that confront coal miners. Waychoff, 28, said there's no way 40 hours of schooling can ready a new miner for such challenges.

"You don't really get any hands-on or in-depth study," said Waychoff, who makes $22 an hour for Maryland-based Foundation Coal Holdings Inc. while attending the two-year mining engineering program the company pays him for taking at Penn State.

Waychoff said he believes his nine weeks of training, along with the guidance of veteran coworkers, keeps him safe. Here you can read the full story, including more about the modern maze that is under construction in Pennsylvania.



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