Higher education

Schools join forces to keep future employees safe

Red Rocks, Mines pooling resources to create stronger program

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Imagine being stuck in a mine shaft, without knowing how to safely escape.

Or picture an isolated oil or gas refinery, where something goes wrong and help is an hour away.

These are just a few of the very real scenarios employees in heavy industrial fields might face, and a new partnership between the Rocky Mountain Education Center at Red Rocks Community College and the Colorado School of Mines Energy, Mining and Construction Industry Safety program wants to ensure employees are prepared for anything.

“This is a good nexus for us to support each other,” said Joan Smith, executive director of the Education Center. “We have a close relationship with Mines on several fronts, and this will help us give our students training in real world situations.”

Starting at the end of the January, the schools will offer joint certificate training programs on required Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and will open the door to training in other standards as well, like the National Fire Protection Association.

“There are limitations in both our school’s programs,” said Collin Smith, director of Mines’ Energy, Mining and Construction Industry Safety program. “Especially since students in Red Rocks’ program are mainly held in classrooms, we believe a joint partnership will provide our students with a more well-rounded education.”

Students will be able to benefit from both in-class education and hands-on experience in the field, at locations like the Edgar Experimental Mine in Idaho Springs and the West Metro Fire Academy in Lakewood. Working in the Edgar Mine is particularly special for students, because getting to practice scenarios in an actual mine is pretty rare.

Participants in the joint courses will earn certificates from Mines as well as OSHA certification from the Rocky Mountain Education Center.

But the benefits of this partnership extend beyond the classroom. Both Collin Smith and Joan Smith are working on putting together a conference that would provide information on how employees in these work environments should deal with an active shooter situation.

“We’re seeing a real blind spot in dealing with this kind of situation in the heavy industrial industry,” Joan explained. “We want to establish some procedures that will help everyone stay safe.”

Employees in heavy industrial jobs, particularly those who are isolated like miners and oil and gas workers, are exposed to many triggers for violence, Collin Smith added, including a high divorce rate, high alcoholism rate and high gun ownership numbers.

“What do you do in places where police are an hour away, and the nearest hospital is two hours away?” he said. “Organizations like the Federal Aviation Association created the air marshal program to deal with these situations, and we want to bring people together and see what we can come up with.”

Both instructors are excited by the possibilities from this approach, and word spreading in the industry.

“We’re just getting started with this program, and want to see what works and doesn’t,” Joan Smith said. “It makes a lot of sense to get experience as close as possible to the actual environments people will be working in.”

For more information, or to register for classes, visit www.rmecosha.com or emcis.mines.edu.

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