HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Blackhawk Mining sent more than 100 of their local experienced miners, some from Pine Branch Mining prep plant, to Hazard Community Technical College (HCTC) for a retraining event.
Instructors say each miner must update their certificate of training form every year.
The one-day session required by the state and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lasts just eight hours. Which to some may feel like a day of going back to school.
"And that's what they are here today to do to take their retraining to learn, to make sure they don't make any mistakes or have any accidents," Sam Brashears, HCTC's mine and safety training coordinator said.
Quinton Thomas has been a miner for 15 years and currently works for Pine Branch Mining. He says coal is how they make a decent living. But without up to date certifications, none of them could keep their jobs.
Why? Because safety is key.
"Actually every job is dangerous," Thomas said. "You just have to stay alert, watch what you're doing, and watch your buddies."
Brashears says mining is second nature for these men but they understand the importance of taking part in training.
"It's a whole lot like driving while you're texting. You do that, what happens? There's a lot of accidents in driving while texting. Same thing with mining. You have to have a safety culture with mining to prevent accidents and fatalities," Brashears said.
Thomas says every year he takes advantage of what Blackhawk Mining provides to him and his coworkers for free.
"If you don't [the office of] mines and minerals will give you a free class but if they aren't giving a free class, you have to wait or you have to pay for it out of pocket and it can get expensive," he said.
As part of MSHA's training plan, all subjects must be covered before an instructor signs off on a miner's 5000-23 form.
The subjects listed on the form are: introduction to the work environment, hazard recognition, emergency medical procedures, H&S aspects of tasks assigned, statutory rights of miners, self-rescue and respiratory devices, transport and communication systems, roof/ground control and ventilation, mine map; escapeways; emergency evacuation; barricading, cleanup; rock dusting, mandatory health and safety standards, authority and responsibility of supervisors and miners representatives, health, electrical hazards, first aid, mine gases, explosives, and prevention of accidents.
And though some procedures may just seem like common sense, these miners say simple reminders help refresh minds young and old alike.
"Like getting down off a dozer or something there. If it's been raining, or freezing rain, that metal gets slick if you don't use your hands or use your three points of contact. Then you can fall. I have busted my old knees and skinned my shins and everything in the world," Thomas said.
Retraining only applies to those who have been in the mines, are experienced and need a refresher. If you are an inexperienced miner in need of mine training, you can contact Sam Brashears at 606-487-3392.