Mine Rescue Teams – A Special Breed

by Joseph Main on August 14, 2014 · 0 comments

The 2014 National Metal and Nonmetal Mine Rescue Contest, held Aug. 4-7 in Lexington, Kentucky, was by all accounts one of the most successful national contests ever for the metal and nonmetal industry. A record 41 teams from 18 states participated in these simulated emergency exercises, which enable teams to sharpen the skills they may one day need in an actual mine emergency.

At times, mine rescue teams have been called upon to travel deep into the earth to locate missing or trapped miners or recover mining operations in conditions made treacherous by fires, explosions or cave-ins. Rescue contests attempt to replicate the conditions that might be encountered underground.

Mine rescue team members employ medical emergency techniques during the first-aid competition:

Mine rescue team members employ medical emergency techniques during the first-aid competition.

Mine rescue team members employ medical emergency techniques during the first-aid competition.

In the field competition, five-member teams search and account for all missing miners following standard mine rescue procedures. The two-man technician team must ensure that multi-gas and self-contained breathing apparatuses are in proper working condition. In the first-aid competition, teams must be prepared to deal with medical emergency techniques, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and control of bleeding, as well as the treatment of physical shock, wounds, burns and musculoskeletal injuries. The team trainer test consists of multiple-choice and true-false questions.

Mine rescue teams are truly a special breed, and they deserve the best training we can provide. Having participated in a number of mine emergency missions over the years, I know that these contests are a vital part of preparing for an emergency we all hope will not happen.

More than 900 people attended the closing banquet, where the competition winners were announced. A handful of teams walked away with trophies but, truthfully, all of the participating are winners.

A mine rescue team member monitors the mine atmosphere with a multi-gas detector:

A mine rescue team member monitors the mine atmosphere with a multi-gas detector.

Two years ago, the Mine Safety and Health Administration changed the structure of national contests, shifting greater participation to industry stakeholders. Since that shift, both the 2013 and the 2014 metal and nonmetal contests have been touted as highly successful events.

Our sincere thanks and congratulations to everyone whose efforts made this year’s contest a success – to the teams that trained all year long; to the trainers, mining companies and MSHA judging staff – and most importantly to the families whose support never waves. As a result, we are a better industry. 

Joseph A. Main is assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

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