Bridging a Gap in Shareholder Employment

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Mine workers are required to obtain a mine safety and health administration (MSHA) 5000-23 certificate of training.  Because this training has not been readily available in the NANA region, it has been a barrier for NANA shareholders gaining employment at mines, including the Red Dog Mine. Part of the issue has been a lack of MSHA trainers in the state.

The shareholder employment and development department at NANA recognized the problem and found a solution. In 2012, they selected Billy Lee of Shungnak and Alex Dublin of Fairbanks to attend a class in Nevada to become licensed MSHA instructors. Not only are they two shareholders, but both are experienced miners.

Dublin has been working in mines since 2003, including Red Dog Mine, Fort Knox Gold Mine and Pogo Gold Mine. Lee worked at Red Dog Mine for 12 years. Each have been through the initial MSHA training and followed up with numerous refresher courses.

“Everybody wants everybody to go home safe and healthy. Every mine site that I’ve ever worked, that’s always the number one thing,” Dublin explained.

While in Nevada, Lee and Dublin spent four days studying the core safety and health focuses as well as getting comfortable with public speaking. The school’s instructors also wanted them to learn to mix it up for their own students and build a program using information specific to various places.

“We were one step ahead because we already knew about mining; we’d been in the mines,” Lee said.

After their training, MSHA gave Lee and Dublin two years to create the course curriculum, have it reviewed and approved, before their certification expired. They had to produce enough material to cover a new-hire class, which is 24 hours of instruction over a three-day period, and the refresher class, which is eight hours long.

“Working with him (Dublin) has been a pleasure,” Lee said.

This past March, Lee and Dublin taught their first session together at the Alaska Technical Center in Kotzebue. They covered topics such as rights of miners, self-rescue and respiratory devices, transportation controls and communications, escape ways and emergency evacuations, ground control, a health section, hazard recognition, electrical hazards, first aid, explosives, health and safety aspects and an intro to the work environment.

 “Everybody was very positive and happy with it. They all said they would take it from us again. Some of them offered encouragement and others left suggestions,” Dublin said.

Lee and Dublin will continue to teach together, as opportunities arise. Although NANA started the initiative by sending them to training, Lee and Dublin are independent contractors. They have the opportunity to share their knowledge all over the state, bridging that gap for those who want to work at mines.

“We try to prepare them before they leave, so that they can go straight to work, right from here. We are just trying to eliminate one step,” Lee said.

Dublin has big plans for training others in the future. His goal “is making more shareholders aware of opportunities for them and then providing this (training) for shareholders.”

For more information on MSHA visit: http://www.msha.gov/aboutmsha.htm#.U2E3DlVdV8E