Another coal miner dies on the job

September 2, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

The nation’s coal industry continues to creep toward having a worse safety year than in 2006 … Another coal miner died on the job Tuesday in Indiana.

Brian W. Mason was killed at about 5:20 p.m. at Triad Underground Mining LLC’s Freelandville Underground Mine near Spencer in Knox County, Ind. The company is a subsidiary of James River Coal Co.

According to a preliminary report from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration:

At approximately 5:20 p.m., a Volvo 40-ton articulating truck was traveling along a haulage road. the truck had rounded a slight curve on a 3.5 percent grade, traveled up the embankment for 11 feet six inches, and steered abruptly back across the haulage road impacting the 63-inch high berm. The truck traveled across the beam and fell 72 feet to the mine floor below. The victim was extricated from the truck by EMS and airlifted to the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he later died from his injuries.

That makes 43 coal miners killed on the job across the U.S. this year, according to MSHA’s count.  That’s the most since 2006, when 47 miners died on the job.  This year is now the second worst year for the coal industry in the last 15 years, according to MSHA data.

Earlier today, MSHA issued what agency officials called a “safety alert and fatality update,” in which MSHA chief Joe Main said:

While headlines continue to focus on the disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine, we cannot lose sight of the fact that other miners are losing their lives at our nation’s mines. Since the beginning of this year, 28 other miners from all sectors of mining have died in fatal accidents. We must take action to prevent additional fatalities.

According to the agency’s news release:

MSHA compiled data on the most common causes of mining deaths in 2010: Eight miners were killed when they were struck by moving or falling objects. Roof falls and rib rolls crushed seven miners. Six miners were killed while working in close proximity to mining or haulage equipment. Three more miners lost their lives in explosions and fires; another miner was killed when he was caught inside rotating machinery. Eight of the dead miners were contractors, including one who fell to his death; and one who was killed when his truck went through a berm and over a highwall. One miner drowned in a dredge pond.

Also:

MSHA inspectors will be especially mindful of these issues while performing inspections. They will talk to miners and mine supervisors in operations throughout the country to discuss these types of fatalities and the ways to prevent them.

And Main said:

Workplace examinations for hazards – pre-shift and on-shift on every shift – can identify and eliminate hazards that kill miners. Effective and appropriate training will help ensure that miners know and understand these hazards and learn how to control or eliminate them.

Fatalities are not an inevitable consequence of mining. We must all work together to send miners home safe and healthy after every shift.

MSHA also issued a news release to remind the mining industry about the rights of miners to complain about safety problems without being discriminated against for doing so:

Section 103(g)(1) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 provides that a miner or miners’ representative has the right to obtain an immediate MSHA inspection if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an imminent danger, a violation of the Mine Act, or a violation of a mandatory safety or health standard exists. The agency will conduct a special inspection to determine if a violation or danger exists, issue a citation or order as appropriate, and take all reasonable steps to maintain and assure the confidentiality of the complainant.

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