“These guys really changed their focus from production to safety. They really look out for one another and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”
— Pat Sollars, vice president and general manager of Peabody Energy’s Colorado operations, about Twentymile Mine receiving Peabody’s 2012 President’s Safety Award.
This week executives of St. Louis-based Peabody Energy traveled to Routt County to bestow a special honor on the employees of Twentymile Mine.
Though Twentymile Mine has built a reputation as the largest coal mining operation in Colorado, this week’s visit had little to do with production.
Instead Twentymile Mine was honored with Peabody Energy’s President’s Safety Award for achieving the company’s best U.S. safety performance rating for an underground coal mining operation in 2012.
This was the third time Twentymile Mine received the award since 2005.
Twentymile Mine employees were recognized for achieving a .96 incident rate, which also is the lowest for an underground mining operation in Peabody’s 130-year history.
The incident rate is calculated by averaging the number of reportable incidents per every 200,000 man-hours worked. Twentymile Mine employs about 500 miners who log more than one million man-hours every year.
“Peabody’s amazed,” said Pat Sollars, vice president and general manager of Peabody Energy’s Colorado operations, during an award presentation Thursday night with X crew. “They’ve never had an underground mine under one (reportable incident per 200,000 man hours), so you guys have set the standard.”
But few would have expected Twentymile Mine to receive the distinction considering its less than safe start to 2012.
Last year between January and April Twentymile Mine was reporting more than three accidents per 200,000 man-hours. But Sollars said the crew turned things around and had only one reportable accident during the course of the next eight months.
“These guys really changed their focus from production to safety,” Sollars said. “They really look out for one another and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”
Though setting a new company safety record is an achievement in itself, Sollars said this week’s recognition was especially satisfying considering the crew conducted three long wall moves, developed the highest panel gate in the mine’s history and poured 12,000 yards of grout in the tailgate, all while also producing more than eight million tons of coal.
Kemal Williamson, president of Peabody Energy Americas, went a step further saying it was Twentymile Mine’s innovative spirit that set them apart from other mines in the company. Later this month the Colorado Mining Association will recognize Twentymile Mine employees for five new safety innovations.
“The team has a progressive culture, and is known for innovation and results,” Williamson said in an email. “A number of new safety tools were introduced this year by employees, and that focus on best practice is what enables continuous improvement.”
One of those innovations is a ladder spotter that extends to the roof of the mine tunnel to provide workers with greater stability when using a ladder on uneven surfaces.
Though this week was a time to for each of the five mining crews to celebrate, Sollars sent X crew out on their graveyard shift with a new challenge.
“Right now we’re at 131 days without a reportable incident, but Peabody is about more than daily goals, it’s about core values,” Sollars said. “Our daily goals may change, but our core values do not.
“We’re getting a lot of questions from St. Louis about whether we can realize their vision of zero incidents. I don’t want to think about zero right now, I want to focus on today, but that dream of zero incidents is out there and this crew can reach it.”
Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org