Red zone awareness critical: US officials

PRELIMINARY findings into the death of an Illinois miner last month have led federal officials to stress the importance of proximity protection systems to prevent fatalities.
Red zone awareness critical: US officials Red zone awareness critical: US officials Red zone awareness critical: US officials Red zone awareness critical: US officials Red zone awareness critical: US officials

The scene of a November 2012 fatal accident in Illinois.

Donna Schmidt

Operator Chad Meyers, 30, was working at Peabody Energy’s Big Ridge mine in Equality, Saline County on November 17 when he was pinned between the rib and the head of a remote-controlled continuous mining machine, according to a report from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Meyers had just 28 weeks of experience operating a continuous miner.

“The victim had mined the left side of an entry and was repositioning the continuous mining machine to mine the right side when the accident occurred,” officials said.

The agency confirmed in its initial confirmation of Meyers’ death that while the incident occurred at about 3.20am, he was not pronounced dead until 4.40am local time.

In its best practices assessment of the event, MSHA spotlighted the importance of installing and maintaining proximity detection systems. It has established a single-source page on its website for mines to review approved systems and get more information.

The agency also urged mines to review, retrain and discuss red zone hazards and avoiding those areas while operating CM units, and also to develop programs, policies, and procedures for starting and tramming the machines.

For those tramming continuous miners underground, MSHA has asked miners to ensure safe locations for themselves and others during the process, especially around the unit’s turning radius. Whenever possible, another miner should be assigned to assist CM operators for the movement or replacing of the machine.

Also, when moving a continuous mining machine in a situation where the left and right traction drives operate independently, officials suggest the use of a low tram speed.

Meyers’ death was the 17th in coal in 2012, and the third machinery death in the industry this year.

The 460-worker Willow Lake mine, which first shipped coal in 2002, mined 2.2 million tons in 2011.

The complex sells the coal from the Springfield No 5 seam to Midwest utility generators.

Peabody announced just two weeks after the incident that it planned to close the mine near Harrisburg.

Officials said the operation would be mothballed because it has “failed to meet acceptable standards for safety, compliance and operating performance” and ongoing issues made the operations “unsustainable”

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification letters were sent to the mine’s workforce.

Peabody expects to incur a largely non-cash, one-time charge of $40 million to $60 million in the fourth quarter.

This will be primarily to write off assets, increase asset retirement obligations and accrue severance.

It expects little affect on ongoing earnings from the closure.

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