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22 Jul 2016 – Wambo reigns supreme as brigadesmen put to the test

Peabody’s Wambo underground mine brigadesman team has again dominated the Hunter Valley Mines Rescue Competition, securing an incredible eighth straight win in Singleton last week.

Now in its 33rd year, the annual event tests the incident response and rescue skills of active mines rescue brigadesman. This year, a mine roof collapse and serious motor vehicle accident were among the emergency scenarios faced by competitors.

Wambo team captain, Warren Kirk, said the team’s dedication was just one of its secrets to success.

‘It comes down to many things, I can’t put my finger on one. However, the high level of commitment from all members of the team both past and present is definitely key,’ Mr Kirk said.

The Hunter Valley event also gave the reigning champions an opportunity to further hone their skills, ahead of Wambo’s upcoming appearance at the International Mines Rescue Competition in Canada next month.

‘We can’t wait to represent both Peabody and the Hunter Valley on the world stage,’ Mr Kirk said.

Mines Rescue Regional Manager, David Connell, said the Hunter Valley Mines Rescue Competition was an ideal opportunity for brigadesman to come together and demonstrate their safety expertise.

‘Fortunately, today’s mining operations are centred on safe work practices, and so the number of major incidents requiring the assistance of our brigadesmen is limited,’ Mr Connell said.

‘Mines Rescue and the brigadesmen continue to provide vital emergency response services. However, prevention is the cornerstone of our role, as the industry continues to recognise the importance of emergency response safety management systems and high-risk activity workplace education and training.

‘This competition allows us to simulate the conditions and pressure of real-life emergencies and put the unique skills of our brigadesmen to the test. As Mines Rescue is committed to continuous improvement, it also gives us an opportunity to identify any training areas that may require additional focus to ensure we maintain the highest possible standard of competency.’

The competition also gave new brigadesmen the chance to engage with their more experienced counterparts, such as Darren McKenzie. This year marks an incredible 25 years of service for Mr McKenzie, whose outstanding efforts were recognised with one of the mines rescue community’s most highly regarded accolades, the gold medallion.

‘I really enjoy being a brigadesman. It’s a lot of fun, I’ve made some really great friends over the years and learned invaluable life skills that have helped me handle incidents at work and beyond,’ Mr McKenzie said.

‘The best thing about the competition is you can test your skills and gauge yourself against the rest of the brigadesmen. We’re all competitive and want to be the best at what we do, and it’s all about learning from each other. At every competition someone shows me something new.’

New recruit and member of Glencore’s Bulga competition team, Matt Sharpe, recently completed the 10-day brigadesman induction. The enthusiastic trainee said he relished the chance to learn from Mr McKenzie and other long-serving brigadesmen.

‘You learn off the people who have done this for a lot longer, and it’s good to be alongside people who have got more experience and can show you the little things,’ Mr Sharpe said.
‘Overall, it’s a really good training day. You can sit in a room and look at the board, watch a video or read a book as many times as you want, but nothing compares to when you actually whack the suit on and go down there and do it.’

Fellow recruit and Bulga team member Matt Butler agreed. ‘In the environment that we work, I’d rather be somebody that’s a bit more active and not take that step back when you want to help someone. The more experience you can have down there, the better,’ Mr Butler said