Tennessee's Mine Rescue Teams Critical in Mining Accidents


Nashville, TN (WorkersCompensation.com) - On Saturday, June 1, at 3:05 p.m., the Division of Mines of the TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development received a callout that an explosives rig underground at the Nyrstar Immel mine located just outside Knoxville was thought to be on fire. Director of Mine Safety Oscar Frederick immediately reported to the state's mine rescue station in Caryville, having alerted mine rescue team members to assemble there to go to the mine site.

Frederick went ahead to the mine and on arrival learned all persons had been safely evacuated. When the Mine Rescue team arrived moments later, they travelled to the incident site and were on standby on the surface in the event of problems underground as the Nyrstar mine rescue teams cleared the mine of smoke and any further dangers associated with the blasting truck.

“This was a happy ending – no one was injured, trapped, or endangered as a result of the circumstances,” said Frederick. “When we get a callout – and before this our last one was in December when three men at the Nyrstar Young mine were trapped due to a fire – we can assemble and respond within 30 minutes.”

The Division of Mining has three instructors, certified by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MNSHA), who teach mine safety classes to miners throughout the state. Mine safety training is required for all miners working in coal mines, crushed stone quarries, and sand and gravel pits. In addition to training miners, the instructors provide training in mine safety to mine rescue teams.

Tennessee's two mine rescue teams, made up of part-time employees who train in Caryville, respond to mine emergencies under intense pressure and time constraints. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Depending on the nature of the emergency, rescue team members can enter mines exposing them to the dangers of gases, coal dirt, smoke, electrical hazards, falling rocks, fire, and various explosive materials.

Labor and Workforce Development's mine rescue teams continue to train and take part in drills that lead to a better response time. Continual training is vital to enhance mine emergency response operations in Tennessee.

This year the amount of annual grants to states from MNSHA was cut 60 percent, leaving Tennessee $49,500 in federal funding for the program. The Division of Mining also charges fees for licenses and training. Despite the reduction in federal funding, Tennessee is still able to deliver these emergency services and make mines in the state a safer place to work.

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