John R. Loff-Peterson, CSP, CRSP, CMSP headshot


John R. Loff-Peterson, CSP, CRSP, CMSP


Health and Safety Program Manager at BARR

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I've been doing mine safety for approximately 12 years, and have been in the safety industry for almost 20 years, but the last 12 have been with more active mine work. I've been a member of SME for about nine years and active with the CMSP process for the last year and a half. 

I started out my career in safety in the general industry, worker's compensation and industrial construction. Then about 12 years ago, the frac sand industry grew in Wisconsin and that's where I am currently. I got into being a mine manager of the frac sand mine with processing plants in Wisconsin and Arkansas. It was an interesting time with the new development of mining in Wisconsin that hadn't been there previously. 

So it was fun to be in on the ground floor as the mine and the processing was being developed and perfected. Learning from the other miners, as I got into the industry, they had great mentors that were other SME members that would help me to learn all the ins and outs of mining safety.  

I started with frac sand mining 12 years ago and since then I have since transitioned to Baar Engineering Company. While we do more than just mining, we have approximately 250 miners who work at mine sites underground and surface across the U.S., Canada and around the world. So I'm involved with the health and safety of miners and a variety of different commodities, locations and environments. 

What gets me excited about mine safety and health is the variety of environments, hazards and risks that are there and the need to be in so many different places, whether it's underground or different processing on the surface. There are so many hazards that it's a great feeling to know I can help my miners as well as anybody else that's working on the mine site to be safe and make sure they can go home at night.
It is really important to help those are out there doing the work understand all the different things that could harm them, whether their health or physical safety, and help mitigate those so that they can stay productive and healthy. 

I have thought about being a CMSP since the day I got into mining. One of our plant managers was a CMSP and I had not heard of it at the time. That was a decade ago, and it got me interested in being able to be credentialed and show I knew the information that could keep people safe on a mine site. 

But I also knew the process of getting the CMSP credential would force me to dig deeper, learn more and connect with other people so that I could build my knowledge to be able to pass the test and become a CMSP. 

So once I had accumulated enough experience, to be able to take the CMSP, I sought out and attended an in-person CMSP prep exam course, which was great. The other students had great questions and we shared notes and compared our experiences. So we all learned from each other as well as the excellent instructor. I took the prep course and then about five months later I took the exam at the SME MineExchange and passed it at that time. So the prep course was instrumental in helping me be ready for the exam. 

The connections I've made through the CMSP prep exam course and taking the exam with the 15 other people, talking to them before and after the exam, I made some connections that are still lasting. I got contacts that I can reach out to when I have questions on different aspects of mining that I'm not familiar with. It's a tight knit community that can, use each other's resources to help increase our knowledge in lots of different aspects. 

The people that I've met through preparing for the CMSP exam, taking it and subsequently, associating with them at conferences are from a wide range of walks of life and backgrounds, some from underground mining, some from academia, professors at different universities and individuals from different countries with different mining associations and experiences there. 

So it's the network you make which can help you to find somebody who is the right connection depending on the question you have. If you need somebody with information on training, you can talk to someone from academia or others that do training at other sites. If there's a new underground process that your company is working with, chances are somebody you've made a connection with has similar processes, similar experiences that can share safety and knowledge pretty much in the safety field. 

Safety knowledge is shared. It's not proprietary. It's we all want everybody to be safe. So if somebody has got a better way, a safer way of doing things, they're usually very willing to share that information so that you can keep your people safe as well. 

I think the future of safety and health in mining environments, and in general industry as well, appears to be going more technological. We're finding better and better ways to protect our miners and workers through technology to either keep them out of a hazardous situation so that the work can be done through some other mechanical means, or there's more mechanical, automated warning systems, proximity detectors and so on.

We're finding ways to partner with the research organizations and others to figure out ways to better engineer out the hazards rather than relying on PPE and administrative controls. I think we're getting towards where we'll find engineering solutions for many, if not all, of our hazards eventually. 

Even though someone coming into the mine safety profession may not have mining experience prior to getting into it, they bring fresh perspective, different experiences that can help to shine new light on mining problems and mining hazards that exist.  

For those in the mining safety industry already, I strongly encourage them to consider going for the CMSP, attend a CMSP prep course if they possibly can and then sit for the exam.

The process of preparing for the CMSP exam really does help to broaden your horizons and broaden your knowledge of all the different areas of mining. It kind of expects you to read up a little bit and study on the different processes and different health and safety management systems. It's a great feeling when you get it and it shows to your current employer, and the employees you support, that you really do care about safety, you take it seriously and you want to be the best you can be.