How coal miners die on the job

June 3, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

Mine Explosion

lambkaWhile the rest of us were focused yesterday on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposed carbon pollution rule, the folk over at the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration were doing what they still have to do far too often … issuing a report of their investigation into the death of a coal miner.  This time it was this report on the Jan. 16, 2014, death of Daniel Lambka, a 20-year-old laborer at Alliance Coal’s Mettiki Mine in Tucker County, W.Va.

Here’s the MSHA summary of what happened:

On Thursday, January 16, 2014, Daniel Lambka (victim), a 20-year-old general inside laborer, was struck by a coal feeder, resulting in fatal injuries. Lambka was on the off side of the belt conveyor, tightening a chain which connected the feeder to the section tailpiece. The tailpiece anchor, located between the rib and the tailpiece, came loose from the rib, allowing the tailpiece to shift, pinning Lambka between the frame of the feeder and the rib.

MSHA investigators listed two “root causes” for the death:

— The mine operator failed to assure the newly moved tailpiece was secured and blocked against shifting prior to starting the belt conveyors. The mine operator did not have effective procedures in place to assure that miners knew the precautions to take and were trained in initial start-up of the belt; and

— The mine operator failed to assure persons were clear of the belt tail area during the startup of the belt conveyors.

MSHA Mettiki Photo

MSHA took no enforcement actions that would carry any monetary penalties, but federal officials did issue this “safeguard order” to try to prevent similar deaths in the future:

A fatal accident occurred at this mine on January 16, 2014, when a miner was struck by a coal feeder during a belt move on the F-Mains No. 2 section. The accident investigation revealed the mine operator failed to properly anchor and block the feeder against motion prior to start-up. Just as the belt started, the victim was instructed to tighten slack in a chain connecting the tailpiece to the feeder on the off side of the belt. As the victim started to tighten the chain, the off side tailpiece anchor loosened, causing the tailpiece to pull against the feeder, shifting it and pinning the victim between the rib and the frame of the feeder. This mine uses mobile tailpieces and coal feeders to transport coal from the working sections outby as part of the production process. Failure to adequately anchor the coal feeders presents the potential for injury to miners travelling or working between the tailpiece or feeder and the rib.

This is a Notice to Provide Safeguards requiring the mine operator to: Securely anchor each tailpiece at this mine prior to start up. When an “engineered” tailpiece is used, the tailpiece will be securely anchored with two inby jacks notched at least 8″ into the coal rib and the jacks will not be able to extend past 30 to 60 degree angle range with the tailpiece. The jacks will be locked into place with pins and the stiff-arms, once anchored. When not using an engineered tailpiece, the tailpiece will be securely anchored with two inby jacks or posts and two flag pins. The inby jacks or posts will make 30 to 60 degree angles with the belt tailpiece, posts will be notched 8″ into the coal rib, and flag pins will be installed inby the tailpiece, a minimum of 3 feet into the ground, and the tailpiece securely chained to them. All personnel shall be clear of the belt tail area, and outby the belt tail for at least one block or in a crosscut, at the initial start-up of the belt. After the initial start-up of the belt, miners may train the belt and assure it is dumping and running correctly. Once the belt has been ensured to be running correctly, two outby jacks or posts will be set.

And obituary in the Cumberland Times-News said this about Daniel Lambka:

Born on May 1, 1993 in Cumberland, he was the son of Keith L. and Rita M. (Callis) Lambka of Kitzmiller.

He was a 2011 graduate of Southern High School. Daniel worked for Mettiki Coal Mt. View Mine in Davis, W.Va., where he died as the result of a tragic accident. He enjoyed coon and deer hunting and loved riding his dirt bike in the MUD. He attended the Kitzmiller Assembly of God.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by a sister, Sarah Lambka of Kitzmiller; his girlfriend, Keari Kuh of Scherr, W.Va.; a special cousin, Scotty Lambka; his paternal grandmother, Pauline Lambka of Elk Garden; his maternal grandfather, James Callis and wife Mary of Jane Lew, W.Va.; several aunts and uncles including special uncles Bill Lambka, Stanley Lambka, Mark Lambka and Robert Callis; and many, many friends including special friends, Rory Kuh, II, Terry Kuh and Austin Berg. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, William G. Lambka; maternal grandmother, Helen Callis; and a special aunt, Bonnie Harsh.

 There’s also this video tribute available on YouTube:

3 Responses to “How coal miners die on the job”

  1. Tony Oppegard says:

    RIP Daniel.

  2. Coal says:

    Looks like a proud coal miner to me. Rest in peace. Shouldn’t use him for your hate of coal.

  3. Don A in Pennsyltucky says:

    It’s unfortunate that the value of a coal miner’s life is so low that it’s less expensive to pay for an occasional death than to invest in safer mining technologies. In the same vein, if coal producers really cared about staying in business for the long haul they would be investing their own money in ways to mine and use coal that do not damage streams, people’s health and seafront properties.

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