Mining in the U.S. has made great improvements in safety since the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 that strengthened safety and training requirements. None-the-Iess, mining remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, primarily because of the inherently dangerous environment where it must be carried out. All U.S. miners have a requirement of a minimum of 8 hours of safety training annually. In addition, new workers must have a minimum of 40 hours of training before beginning work if they are underground miners, and 24 if they are surface miners. In a series of stakeholder meetings carried out in 1997 by NIOSH researchers, industry safety professionals agreed that materials available for non-coal trainers were out of date or non-existent, and that new miner training materials were largely inadequate. In mid-1998 NIOSH funded a project to investigate whether training materials could be developed that were relevant, interesting, and educational. An investigation into the literature on adult non-traditional learners and on the mining population indicated that these people were not "seat work" learners, and that their primary method of learning tasks or new skills was through a master-apprentice relationship with an older miner. Using this information, a series of videos has been created that uses master miners to teach the skills and attitudes necessary to surviving, and thriving, as a miner. The series follows the mining cycle, starting with safe handling of explosives, through supporting the ground, the loading of the broken ore, and to the actual mining of the ore. Two of the videos in the series are naITative descriptions of what happens when things go wrong, and are very powerful reminders of the dangers of working in the mining industry. The master miners in the videos are all professional miners, who were selected because of their knowledge and reputation in the industry. Several of the videos include a young, naive trainee who would be in serious trouble without the guidance of the master. Research has shown that the use of this "transitional character" is quite effective as a training device. As he gains knowledge and experience, through making bad choices and the mentoring relationship he has with the master, the trainee learns to be both safe and productive. He also gains an understanding of the underlying culture of the mining community, which provides him cues about "how we do things around here", and how he is expected to behave. Most experienced miners associate strongly with this pattern, having learned their craft, and their culture, from other masters. New hires, it has been shown, react positively as well because they admire and respect the masters and desire to be like them. The NIOSH mining videos have been widely distributed, with copies in over 30 countries. An independent evaluation has shown that their popularity comes from the high quality, the relevant content, the credibility of the master miners, the realism of shooting in operating mines, and the use of humor or interesting stories. If no other criterion to determine value to the miners is used, it might be noted that a pattern has shown up where miners are stealing the videos from the safety rooms to take them home and show their families. High praise indeed.
Best Practices in Occupational Safety and Health, Education, Training, and Communication: Ideas That Sizzle, 6th International Conference, Scientific Committee on Education and Training in Occupational Health, ICOH, In Cooperation with The International Communication Network, ICOH, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, October 28-30, 2002