How coal miners die on the job

June 24, 2014 by Ken Ward Jr.

Mine Explosion

Yesterday, a coal miner in Montana became the 8th coal industry fatality of 2014, while the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has released the report of its investigation into the November 2013 death of coal miner Dallas Travelstead  at M-Class Mining LLC’s MC #1 Mine in Franklin County, Illinois. The operation is part of Chris Cline’s coal empire. Here’s the summary of what happened:

On November 4, 2013, at approximately 1:50 p.m. (CST), Dallas Travelstead (victim), a Longwall Chief, was fatally injured when shoveling coal and loose rock between the coal face and the longwall panline.  The accident occurred at the No. 123 shield on the South District 1, Headgate of the No. 2 Longwall.  Travelstead received crushing injuries when a solid piece of coal and cap rock fell from the coal face, striking his mid to lower back, pinning him against the working face side of the panline.  

The mine operator did not have effective policies, programs, procedures, or controls in place to protect miners from a fall of the longwall roof or face while miners are positioned on the panline or between the panline and the longwall face.

The MSHA report noted:

A review of the previous accidents and injuries for the MC #1 Mine shows that on September 17, 2013, there was one previous injury from fall of the longwall face.  In that accident, the injured miner was inside the panline changing bits on the shearer, when coal rolled out of the face and struck the left foot of the miner.  Two previous roof falls on the longwall blocked egress on the tailgate side of the longwall.  These two roof falls occurred on March 31, 2011, and March 29, 2012.

MCMining

Here’s what MSHA listed as the root cause of the death:

The mine operator did not have effective policies, programs, procedures, or controls in place to protect miners from a fall of roof or the longwall face while miners are positioned on the panline or between the panline and the longwall face.  Therefore, the miners were not adequately trained with regard to working on the panline or between the panline and the longwall face.

And here’s the enforcement action MSHA took:

A 104(d)(2) order was issued for a violation of 30 CFR § 75.202(a): On November 4, 2013, at approximately 1:50 p.m., the Longwall Chief, was fatally injured while shoveling coal and loose rock between the coal face and the longwall panline at the No. 123 shield on the South District 1, Headgate, No. 2 section face (MMU 004-0).  The victim received crushing injuries when a solid piece of coal and cap rock fell from the coal face, striking the victim.  The coal and rock combination measured approximately 4 feet 10 inches long, by 2 feet 3 inches wide, and up to 24-inches thick.

Review of the MSHA database shows that this accident is the second accident and first fatality at this mine where a miner was struck by coal or rock that had fallen or rolled from the longwall face since September of 2013.  There were two other reportable accidents, one on March 31, 2011 and one on March 29, 2012, where the longwall face fell or rolled out onto the panline.  In both of these accidents, the rock and/or coal were of such large size as to affect passage of the miners off the tailgate end of the longwall face.

The mine operator failed to support or otherwise control the roof or face area of the longwall to protect persons from hazards related to falls of the roof or face while working between the longwall face and the panline.

The mine operator engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence when miners were allowed to work between the coal face and the longwall panline without any special precautions. This is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.

Standard 75.202(a) was cited 8 times in two years at Mine 11-03189 (8 to this mine operator, 0 to a contractor).

 

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