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COVID-19 forces hands-on mine safety training to go online

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HIBBING, MN -- In the last week we saw college campuses close down due to COVD-19 but that didn't just impact college students.

It also threw a wrench in an important, and mandatory safety training for those who work both in and for the mines.

"It's the vendors, it's the contractors, it's everybody who has any association with the mining company properties," said Jon Olson, a Custom Training Rep. for Advanced Minnesota.

That means thousands of people all required to complete training through the Mine Safety and Health Administration, better known as MSHA.

But with the college campus closed Advanced Minnesota was faced with a big problem.

"This severely interrupts the business process both for the supplier, vendor chain and for our taconite facilities if folks can't come on-site," said Roy Smith, Director of Talent Development for IRRRB and colleges of Northeast Higher Education District.

Olson echoed the importance of making sure those who need, receive the training.

"These employees that are here today, they would not be able to go to work tomorrow if they didn't have the certificate in hand to go on the mining company property."

So, they took the training online.

"It's a new learning curve for everybody, us included," said Olson who has been an adjunct instructor since 1982.

"We had to redevelop the program. A lot of our programs are very much hands-on and obviously that's something we can't do today, so we had to adapt the curriculum for the online presentation and make it so it was user-friendly to the participants and so they got the same type of material out of the course."

Jim Shaughnessy works for Lakehead Constructors and said this training is critical to his job.

"Required. It's 100 percent required. But other than that, it also keeps people on their toes and keeps them refreshed about doing the things to keep everybody safe on the job."

He's due to complete his annual MSHA certification and when he heard the class would no longer be in person he had some concerns.

"I kinda was wondering how they would do it as far as monitoring wise, as far as keeping people interacted, but it seems to be working pretty good."

For those at Advanced Minnesota, that's all they hoped for.

"It was a lot of work and then it's sort of fingers crossed at the launch," said Smith. "Have things gone perfect? No. But we're learning with each minute that goes by and by this time tomorrow things will be better and by this time next week they'll be getting close to really having things ironed out."

Smith said this training will continue until the campus re-opens to students and customers.

If things continue to go well he believes this format of training could expand and become a more common practice.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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