In the U.S. coal mining industry, a large cohort of miners is at or nearing retirement age. As these miners retire, there will be a need to hire and train thousands of new and most likely younger workers. Moreover, a large portion of safety trainers will also require replacement due to retirement. In a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives (2004), Bruce Watzman, Vice President for Safety, Health and Human Resources for the National Mining Association said, "[W]e will need to replace a major portion, approximately 50%, of the underground coal mining workforce within the next 5-7 years." The large influx of new mine workers, along with the deficit in safety trainers, creates the challenge to provide consistent and effective safety training. Given the expected high turnover of the mining workforce, it is very likely that incoming workers will have much less experience than those leaving the workforce. Unfortunately, inexperienced miners have been shown to incur the highest rate of injuries. The piece of machinery most associated with these injuries is the roof bolting machine, which accounts for 56% of machinery-related injuries in underground coal mining. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a new report entitled "Roof Bolting Machine Operators Skills Training for a Walk-Thru Roof Bolter: Trainer's Guide" (IC 9489). It is designed to help safety trainers develop structured training for new operators of walk-thru bolting machines. This resource will help trainees learn, understand, and apply knowledge and skills. Included in the trainer's guide are the following tools: a six-part DVD video series, a skills check survey, talking points, and a complete job training analysis. Also included is an exercise to help trainees learn more about their mine's roof control plan, as well as a list of supplemental training and reading materials. On-site trainers can modify this guide to fit their particular mine conditions, machines and equipment, and work procedures. The goal of every coal mine safety professional is to increase safety awareness and make mines a safer place to work. The Walk-Thru Bolting Machine Trainer's Guide will help teach new miners skills to create a safer working environment that will ultimately prevent or reduce on-the-job injuries. Safety trainers can also use the ideas and concepts from this guide to develop their own training skills for the safe operation of other pieces of underground coal mining equipment.
Susan B. Bealko, NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA