Six employees from the Westmoreland Coal Company’s mines in southeast Saskatchewan have been brushing up on a variety of skills, as they prepare for the upcoming provincial Mine Rescue Competition in Saskatoon.
Jason Howse, who is a safety advisor with Westmoreland Coal, said the mine rescue team has been training full-time since the middle of May. They'll spend nearly three weeks learning, reinforcing and practicing the techniques needed for the competition, which is May 31 in Saskatoon.
Captain Cory Gibson, assistant captain Lee Mantei, Kevin Ducey, Craig Alexander, Brandon Schopp and Jessica Merrien comprise this year's team. Four of this year's six team members are rookies.
“They are learning and excelling with their skills with amazing proficiency,” said Howse.
Team members started by working on smokehouse search and rescue scenarios on May 12 and 13. Then they shifted into first aid techniques May 14 and 15.
Firefighting training started on May 16. They used portable fire extinguishers to put out Class B flammable fuels. Following the Victoria Day long weekend, they resumed their firefighting sessions.
Transcare Rescue, a company from Langham, came down to Estevan on May 21 to start three days of confined space and technical rope rescues.
“We have scaffolding set up inside our training facility that they’ll work off of,” said Howse.
In the final week, the rescue team will reinforce all that they have learned.
“It’s just scenario after scenario, changing up every scenario, getting them really comfortable with the gear and with each other,” said Howse.
Team members also attended a youth conference at Spruce Ridge School on May 16, and offered first aid tips to students.
Belinda Mitchell from the St. John Ambulance has been helping the mine rescue team prepare for the competition.
“She’s actually the event coordinator, so when she says we’re doing good, we know we’re doing good,” said Howse.
Not only do they spend three weeks of full-time equivalent hours preparing for the competition, but Howse said the team members come together once a month for a training session to work on their skills. They might also attend classes during the year.
Howse said the mine rescue team provides an excellent representation of the mines, and they receive lots of support from the mine’s management.
The mine rescue competition is one of the showcase events for Saskatchewan Mining Week each year. It is also typically one of the final events for Mining Week.