Overloading, inadequate maintenance cited in KY worker fatality

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration are pointing to inadequate brakes, along with routine haul truck overloading and inefficient oversight by the mine owner and contract company for a powered haulage incident that killed one worker last December.
Overloading, inadequate maintenance cited in KY worker fatality Overloading, inadequate maintenance cited in KY worker fatality Overloading, inadequate maintenance cited in KY worker fatality Overloading, inadequate maintenance cited in KY worker fatality Overloading, inadequate maintenance cited in KY worker fatality

The site of a December 2009 powered haulage incident in Kentucky. Courtesy MSHA.

Donna Schmidt

Truck driver and chief mechanic for Trivette Trucking Stevie Johnson, 52, was working as a contractor at Premier Elkhorn Coal’s PE Southern Pike County mine in Pike County on December 12, 2009 when he exited the 2006 International Paystar, Model 5600i haul truck he was driving and was struck by the vehicle’s left rear tandems.

The 30-year industry veteran, who had worked for Trivette for seven years, was hauling coal when the incident occurred.

“Johnson had commented on the CB radio to other drivers between 5.30am and 6.15am that he was having a problem with the steering on the truck he was driving,” investigators outlined in a description of the incident.

“He stated that ‘he had put power steering fluid in the truck last night, but it might need some more,’ and ‘the steering seems to be a little stiff’.” He then visually checked the steering system for leaks with another worker, found no issues, and proceeded to his destination at the jump site.”

MSHA said the 40,000-pound truck Johnson was operating had a weight allowance limit of 90,000lbs and a gross vehicle weight rating of 82,600lbs.

“Based on the weigh tickets for the truck, when it last hauled from the same location on December 5, 2009, the GVW for the truck at the time of the accident was estimated to be 120,200 pounds,” the investigators outlined.

“In addition, the loader operator stated that on the day of the accident he was loading the trucks with a slight heap. The estimated GVW of 120,200 pounds was 37,600 pounds over the maximum GVWR recommended by the manufacturer.”

Additionally, an evaluation of the incident and evidence revealed that the brake on the right rear tandem axle of the haul truck did not function and the S-cam was found to be jammed in a "high-cam" position.

“The brake drums on the front-right tandem axle and both the right and left rear tandem axles were worn beyond the maximum allowable diameter stamped on the drums.

“Bluing was present on the right front and left rear tandem axle brake drums [which] indicates excessive heat and compromises the braking capacity,” investigators said, noting also that no deficiencies to the engine or parking brake were found.

MSHA concluded that the incident occurred because the driver lost control of the overloaded truck and received his fatal injuries when he exited the cab, and that the truck was equipped with inadequate brakes.

“Both the mine operator, Premier Elkhorn Coal Company, and the contractor, Trivette Trucking, were aware that trucks were routinely overloaded and did not act to stop this practice. Also, Trivette Trucking and Premier Elkhorn failed to provide effective oversight to assure that safety defects were identified during scheduled periodic in-depth maintenance was performed, and defects were corrected before the equipment was used.”

In its root cause analysis, federal regulators cited missing procedures by Trivette Trucking to ensure all trucks received adequate maintenance and safety defect inspections, finding that the company only monitored oil changes and lubrications.

Additionally, Premier Elkhorn did not fulfill its responsibility to ensure proper truck maintenance.

To correct the issue, MSHA ordered a revised policy be established to ensure proper maintenance and to document and monitor the maintenance program.

Premier Elkhorn has also instituted a new policy involving random contractor-operated truck inspections.

To rectify the overloading issue, the companies provided training to drivers regarding the hazards of exceeding GVW and instructed operators not to haul when overloaded.

Premier Elkhorn Coal’s PE Southern Pike County mine is owned by TECO Energy. The bituminous operation primarily performs contour mining.

Trivette Trucking is one of the independent contractors that hauls coal from the site.

The last regular safety and health inspection of the mine prior to the accident was completed on November 17, 2009.

The operation’s non fatal days lost injury incidence rate for 2009 was 0.00, versus the national NFDL average of 4.16; the NFDL injury incidence rate for Trivette in 2009 was 0.00, compared to the 2.48 national average.

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