On Wednesday, March 30, 2017, at 2:09 am, a 33-year-old miner (auger operator/foreman) was fatally injured at a surface auger mine.  The miner was struck by a rock that fell from the bottom section of the highwall while changing worn cutter-head bits located at the front of the auger machine.  The rock was approximately 4 feet by 5 feet by 30 inches in size.

Best Practices

  • Follow the approved ground control plan at all times to ensure the safe control of highwalls.
  • Ensure that miners at all times work, travel, and operate mining systems/equipment at a safe distance from the toe of the highwall.
  • Position and reposition the auger machine canopy as needed to protect miners near the toe of a highwall from falling material.
  • Assign a spotter during maintenance or other activities to evaluate the ground conditions when miners are positioned near the toe of the highwall.
  • Miners should not work or position themselves between equipment and the highwall in such a manner that the equipment hinders escape from falls or slides.
  • Safely examine a highwall from as many perspectives as possible (bottom, sides, and top) before work begins.  Use adequate lighting during non-daylight hours to conduct examinations and to illuminate work areas.
  • Conduct additional examinations as necessary, especially during periods of changing weather conditions.
  • Examine areas at the back of the top and the face of the highwall for hazards presented by cracks, sloughing, loose ground, and large rocks.
  • Observe and notify miners of highwall hazards immediately.  Remove highwall hazards or barricade hazardous areas to keep miners away.
  • Train all miners to recognize hazardous highwall conditions.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf)

m10On July 25, 2016, a 59 year old Excavator Operator, with 17 years of experience, was killed at a limestone quarry.  Prior to the accident, the victim was loading shot rock into haul trucks. While waiting for the haul trucks to return, the victim was separating out over sized rocks when the cab of his excavator was struck by falling material from the highwall.

Best Practices

  • Operate excavators with the cab perpendicular to, and swinging away from, the highwall.
  • Examine highwalls from as many perspectives as possible (bottom, sides, and top/crest) while maintaining the safety of the examiner(s). Look for signs of cracking or other geologic discontinuities.
  • Maintain access to the top of highwalls so that thorough examinations can be conducted.
  • Perform supplemental examinations of highwalls, banks, benches, and sloping terrain in the working area during and following inclement weather.
  • Immediately remove all personnel exposed to hazardous ground conditions, barricade, and/or post signs to prevent entry, and promptly correct unsafe conditions.
  • Use mining methods that ensure highwall stability and safe working conditions.
  • Look, Listen and Evaluate your highwall and pit conditions daily, especially after each rain, freeze, or thaw.
  • Establish and discuss safe work procedures for working near highwalls.  Be your own examiner and find hazards before they find you.

Refer to PIB P10-09 ‘Safety Precautions for Operating Rubber Tired and Track-Mounted Excavators’ for additional information regarding hazards related to operating excavators at surface mines.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf), MSHA Investigation Report (pdf), Overview (pdf).

c04On Friday, March 25, 2016, a 48-year-old continuous mining machine operator, with 30 years of mining experience, was fatally injured when an overhanging section of a rock rib fell and pinned him against the haulage equipment. The fallen rib was approximately 44 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 2 feet thick. The victim was remotely operating a continuous mining machine that was being used to excavate material during the construction of a coal transfer shaft. The area where the accident occurred had a depth of cover of approximately 1,950 feet and a height of approximately 17 feet.

Best Practices

  • Be aware of potential hazards at all times when working or traveling near mine ribs, especially when conditions exist that could cause roof or rib disturbance. Take additional safety precautions in these conditions and when mining heights increase.
  • Do not stand between ribs and remotely controlled face equipment.
  • Know and follow all provisions of the approved roof control plan.  Recognize that this plan has minimum requirements and additional measures must be taken as mining conditions warrant.
  • Train all miners to conduct thorough examinations of the roof, face, and ribs where miners will be working or traveling. Correct all hazardous conditions before allowing miners in such areas. Continuously watch for changing conditions and conduct more frequent examinations when abnormal conditions are present.
  • Pay particular attention to deteriorating roof and rib conditions when working in, or traveling through, older areas of the mine.  Provide additional training for specialized work, such as outby construction, emphasizing best practices for each specific task.
  • Perform a site-specific risk assessment for underground construction projects since unusual hazards may be encountered.  Identify and correct hazardous conditions related to falls of the roof, face, and ribs.
  • Install rib bolts on cycle and in a consistent pattern for the best protection against rib falls.
  • Provide additional support when fractures or other abnormalities are detected and use appropriate standing support beneath overhanging brows if they cannot be taken down or adequately bolted.
  • Adequately scale any loose rib material from a safe location with a bar of suitable length.
  • Historically, rib related accidents occur in areas where the mining height exceeds 7 feet and the cover is more than 700 feet. In such areas, make frequent examinations and take proactive measures to assure adequate, effective rib support is installed and maintained.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf), Accident Report (pdf).

c02On January 16, 2016, a 31 year old continuous mining machine operator with 12 years of mining experience was fatally injured when a section of coal/rock rib measuring 4.5 feet long, 3 feet high, and 3 feet thick fell and pinned him to the mine floor. The victim was remotely operating the continuous miner in the number 2 entry of the advancing section when the accident occurred.

Best Practices

  • Train all miners and supervisors to conduct thorough examinations of the roof, face, and ribs where persons will be working and traveling. Correct all hazardous conditions before allowing persons to work or travel in such areas.
  •  Be aware of potential hazards at all times when working or traveling near ribs. Take additional safety precautions when mining heights increase to prevent development of rib hazards.
  • Avoid areas of close clearance between ribs and equipment.
  • Know and follow the approved roof control plan and provide additional support when roof or rib fractures, or other abnormalities are detected.  Remember, the approved roof control plan only contains minimum requirements.
  • Install rib bolts with adequate surface coverage hardware on cycle and in a consistent pattern for the best protection against rib falls. In addition to rib bolts and mesh, setting post on 4 foot centers along questionable rib lines will provide additional protection against rib rolls.
  • Be alert for changing conditions, especially after activities that could cause roof disturbance. Report abnormal roof or rib conditions to mine management.
  • Adequately support or scale any loose roof or rib material from a safe location.  Use a bar of suitable length and design when scaling.
  • Danger off hazardous areas until appropriate corrective measures can be taken.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf), Accident Report (pdf).

c04On Monday, March 16, 2015, a 34-year-old section foreman with 10 years of mining experience was killed when a coal/rock rib approximately 90 inches long, 45 inches high, and 15 to 18 inches thick fell and pinned him against the side of a shuttle car.

Best Practices

  • Be aware of potential hazards at all times when working or traveling near ribs.
  • Avoid areas of close clearance between ribs and equipment.
  • Know and follow the approved roof control plan and provide additional support when cracks or other abnormalities are detected.  Remember, the approved roof control plan contains minimum requirements.
  • Install rib bolts on cycle and in a consistent pattern for the best protection against rib falls.
  • Train all miners to conduct thorough examinations of the roof, face, and ribs where persons will be working and traveling.  Correct all hazardous conditions before allowing persons to work or travel in such areas.
  • Be alert for changing conditions.  Report abnormal roof or rib conditions to mine management.
  • Adequately support or scale any loose roof or rib material from a safe location.   Use a bar of suitable length and design when scaling.
  • Danger off hazardous areas until appropriate corrective measures can be taken.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf)

c03On March 8, 2015, a 45-year old assistant longwall coordinator with twelve years of experience was killed while working a longwall section.  The victim was shoveling loose material between the longwall face and the pan line when a large piece of rock, 12 feet long by 5 feet wide by 1 foot thick, fell from the face and struck him.

Best Practices

  • Conduct thorough and more frequent examinations of the roof, face, and ribs, when abnormal conditions are present.  Watch for frequently changing conditions.
  • Scale hazardous roof, face, or rib conditions and adequately support the areas before any work or travel is permitted.  Ensure that a bar of suitable length and design is used when removing loose or unconsolidated material.
  • Install longwall shield extensions to cover a portion of the face and minimize unsupported areas.
  • Implement policies, programs, procedures, and controls to protect miners working in the face conveyor areas.
  • Reinstruct all miners in hazard recognition, adequate support methods, and safe work practices when abnormal conditions or circumstances are present on the longwall face.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf)

FTL14c12aOn Tuesday, October 7, 2014, a 31-year-old utility worker, with 13 years of mining experience, was killed after he crawled 37 feet into an entry mined with a highwall mining machine to retrieve a broken cutter-head-chain from the mining machine. A rock, 8 feet wide, 6 feet long, and 16 inches thick fell on him. He was initially transported to a local hospital and was being airlifted to a larger medical facility when he died.

Best Practices
  • Never go under unsupported roof.
  • Never enter a hole mined with a highwall mining machine or auger without a specific, detailed, and approved plan to do so.
  • Develop a plan to remotely retrieve any part of a highwall mining machine caught or left in an entry.  The plan must specify methods which do not expose miners to hazards.  Train all personnel in such plans.
  • Know and follow the provisions of the established Ground Control Plan.
  • Establish Ground Control Plans for highwall mining operations that ensure safety and address web spacing, depth of penetration, and confined work areas.
  • Keep all equipment in proper working order by establishing and implementing maintenance schedules.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf)

ftl2014c0405On Monday, May 12, 2014, a 48-year-old continuous mining machine operator with 26 years of mining experience, and a 46-year-old mobile roof support operator/roof bolter with 3½ years of mining experience, were fatally injured as a result of a coal rib burst. The section crew was retreat mining in the #6 entry of the 4 East Mains Panel. They were mining the second lift of the left pillar block when the accident occurred.

Best Practices
  • Conduct frequent and thorough examinations of the roof, face, and ribs.  Be alert for changing conditions.  When hazardous conditions are detected, danger off access to the area until it is made safe for work and travel.
  • Ensure that the approved roof control plan support provisions are suitable for the geological conditions at the mine and that the plan is followed.
  • Train all miners in the requirements of the approved roof control plan and instruct miners to follow the plan at all times.
  • Ensure that the pillar dimensions and the mining method are suitable for the conditions, and that roof and rib control methods are adequate for the depth of cover.  Consider the potential effects of any mines above or below the active workings.
  • Develop a map of geological features and unusual conditions in order to develop the best mining plan that addresses the potentially adverse roof and rib conditions that may be present.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf), MSHA Investigation Report (pdf).

ftl2014m05-06On April 11, 2014, a 53-year-old scaler with 8 years of experience and a 29-year old scaler with 8 years of experience were killed at an underground limestone mine.  The miners were in a basket on a boom truck scaling a pillar about 40 feet above the mine floor.  Large slabs of rock fell from the rib and struck an outrigger and the back of the truck, causing the boom to fall to the mine floor. 

Best Practices

  • Establish safe work procedures and train all persons to recognize and understand these procedures.
  • Discuss safe work procedures before beginning work.  Identify and control all hazards associated with the work to be performed and the methods to properly protect persons.
  • Always examine, sound, and test for loose ground in areas before starting to work, after blasting, and as ground conditions warrant.
  • Always wear fall protection where there is a danger of falling.
  • Scale loose material from a safe position and location.
  • Test for loose material frequently during work activities.
  • Install ground support in roof and ribs where conditions warrant.
  • Use equipment with a reach that reduces the possibility of the equipment being struck by falling material.
  • Position equipment to keep outriggers and boom from being struck by falling material.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf), MSHA Investigation Report (pdf), Overview (powerpoint), Overview (pdf).

ftl2013c19

On November 4, 2013, a 36 year-old longwall chief, with 16 years of experience, was killed while shoveling loose coal and rock between the coal face and the pan line on a longwall section. The victim received crushing injuries when a solid piece of coal and cap rock fell from the coal face, striking and pinning him against the face side of the pan line. The coal/rock combination measured approximately 4 feet and 10-inches long, by 2 feet and 3 inches wide, and up to 24 inches thick.

Best Practices

  • Conduct a thorough examination of the roof, face, and ribs, including a visual examination and a sound and vibration test prior to miners being assigned to work or travel through an area.
  • Correct hazardous roof, face, or rib conditions before any work or travel is permitted in the affected area.
  • Use a bar of suitable length and design for removing loose or unconsolidated material.
  • Support the exposed longwall roof, face, and ribs by mechanical means in the immediate work area.
  • Train all miners in hazard recognition and safe work practices that are assigned to perform work on the longwall face.
  • Apply additional safety precautions in areas where geological changes and anomalies in strata are present.
  • Post a certified foreman at the work area when maintenance is being performed.
  • De-energize the face conveyor, notify the headgate operator, and disconnect power at the control station while work is being performed on the face conveyor (pan). Do not energize the conveyor until all persons are off the face side of the conveyor and the conveyor is supported adequately from inadvertent movement.

Click here for: MSHA Preliminary Report (pdf)