Fatality caused by inexperience: MSHA

FEDERAL investigators have concluded that a 19-year old red hat miner, who died in January at a West Virginia mine, was killed in a conveyor accident because of his industry inexperience.
Fatality caused by inexperience: MSHA Fatality caused by inexperience: MSHA Fatality caused by inexperience: MSHA Fatality caused by inexperience: MSHA Fatality caused by inexperience: MSHA

The scene of a January 2011 fatal accident in West Virginia.

Donna Schmidt

In its final investigation report, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration said underground miner John Lester Jr, who had just 109 days on the job, lost his life on January 27 after attempting to cross the moving No.3 conveyor belt at Baylor Mining’s Jims Branch No.3B operation in Wyoming County.

Lester, who subsequently fell on top of the conveyor belt, was immediately carried to the discharge coal guide boards, where he became caught in the structure.

“Based on the evidence at the accident scene, along with the victim's location and position when located, the most likely cause of the accident was that Lester fell onto the No.3 conveyor belt while attempting to cross the moving belt, just inby the No.4 conveyor belt head,” MSHA inspectors said.

“This caused the victim to be pulled under the expanded metal guarding and become lodged on the inby edge of the drip board chute attached to the No.4 conveyor belt head.”

Regulators issued a safeguard notice to the mine requiring that no individuals cross moving conveyor belts except at suitable provided crossing facilities.

The operator has also amended its safety plan for the mine whereby “when conveyor belts are installed that are not inline of the receiving belt or if cross belts are not dumping directly over the receiving belt tailpiece, and height allows, a belt crossover will be installed on the receiving belt inby and outby the belt head dumping point”, and an additional crossover has been installed inby the No.4 belt conveyor discharge roller as well as inby the No.2 belt conveyor discharge roller.

Finally, all Jims Branch staff received training on the hazards associated with working around and crossing moving conveyor belts.

The Jims Branch No.3B mine, a bituminous operation extracting from the Sewell coal seam, employs 29 people, with 26 of them underground. The mine produces, on average, 1100 tons of raw material per day.

MSHA completed the last regular safety and health inspection prior to the accident on December 14, 2010. The mine’s Non-Fatal Days Lost injury incidence rate for this mine during the period of January through September 2010 was 21.06, compared to a national NFDL rate of 3.92.