AMELIA ISLAND, Fla.—Jeffrey Duncan's mission is to improve mine safety, and he's asked the off-the-road tire industry to help.
In a speech at the recent Off-the-Road Tire Conference in Amelia Island, the director of educational policy and development for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in Washington offered to partner with the OTR tire industry to develop new training programs for the handling and servicing of off-the-road tires at mine sites.
That gesture drew applause from the audience of nearly 300 tire dealers, tire manufacturers and suppliers attending the three-day event.
"We understand there's a special expertise out there and we're looking for a synergistic relationship," Mr. Duncan said. Specifically, he'd like to see the tire industry and MSHA work together "to improve the overall health and safety as related to tires and tire handling in mine sites."
The Mine Safety and Health Administration is made up of three different sections—enforcement, education and engineering.
Mr. Duncan is reponsible for implementing MSHA's education and training effort, which includes carrying out training regulations for surface non-metal mining operations under Part 46 of Title 30—a federal rule that regulates the mining industry.
Surface non-metal mines are those covering sand, gravel, stone, phosphate, surface clays and limestone operations.
Prior to the establishment of Part 46, which became a rule on Sept. 30, 1999, Congress had prohibited MSHA from spending funds to enforce training regulations at those types of mines.
But with the the rule's passage, all surface non-metal mines must have an employee training program in place as of Oct. 2, 2000, Mr. Duncan said.
This impacts tire dealers and others who enter a mine site to service and handle tires.
"Independent contractors who perform maintenance or service work on mine properties, such as working on tires, are required to receive training," Mr. Duncan said. The type of training varies depending on the exposure to the hazards of the mining operation, the experience of the independent contractor and the length of time spent at the mine operation.
Mr. Duncan noted that mine safety has improved significantly over the years. From 1907—the worst year for mining accidents when more than 3,200 U.S. miners lost their lives—the industry now averages about 100 fatalities annually.
Breaking that down further, Mr. Duncan noted 27 people have lost their lives on mine property since 1983 while changing, handling or moving tires.
He cited three such incidents:
A 35-year-old tire repairman who was crushed when a tire he was lifting with a crane fell on him;
A 34-year-old man who was killed and another man seriously injured when they failed to deflate a tire they were working on and the lugs blew off; and
A truck operator who was killed when an OTR tire exploded upward crushing him in the vehicle's cab.
Beyond fatalities, U.S. mining also has suffered more than 2,000 lost-time injuries involving tires since 1983, Mr. Duncan said, although he wasn't certain how many of these involved tire technicans and how many were mine employees.
"Now 27 (deaths) since 1983 doesn't seem like a whole lot when compared to the total (number of) fatalities in the mine industry each year," he said. "But the fact of the matter is your employees' exposure is much lower than that of employees at the mine," he said.
Mr. Duncan would like to see the numbers go lower, and he sees the tire industry helping in the effort.
"Mining moves on tires," he explained. "We have a common goal of health and safety on mining property both for the actual miners and the employees of your companies."
The recently updated Off-the-Road Tire Mount/Demount Tire Service Technician Training Program, developed by the Tire Association of North America (TANA), is an "excellent training tool" under MSHA's training requirement, Mr. Duncan said.
TANA, which sponsors the annual OTR conference, unveiled the newest version of its OTR training program at the meeting. It features a training video, and will include an extensive workbook and test still under development.
Employees who complete the program and pass the test will receive TANA certification as an OTR tire technician.
"A training program like this, there isn't anyone that can do it better," he said. "You're the subject-matter expert. You know your business better than anyone."
To help develop training materials, Mr. Duncan offered the OTR tire industry use of the National Mine Health & Safety Academy in Beckley, W.Va., as well as the agency's Educational Field Services staff, which includes more than 50 educators and training specialists across the country.
"If we can work with you to provide qualified effective training to the OTR industry, we'd like that opportunity," he said.