MSHA cites operator in Illinois miner death

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued two citations for non-compliance, one of them an unwarrantable failure, to Knight Hawk Coal for the February death of one of its underground workers in Illinois.

Donna Schmidt

Continuous mining machine operator Timothy Chamness, 28, was killed on February 13, 2013 at the Prairie Eagle South operation in Cutler, Perry County, after being pinned between the tail of a remote-controlled Joy 14CM15-11EX continuous miner and the coal rib at the mine’s third north section of the main west entry.

“While repositioning the continuous mining machine to mine the final cut on the left side of the entry, the victim was pinned between the conveyor boom of the machine and the coal rib on the right side of the entry,” the agency said in its final investigation report released on Tuesday.

Investigators added that Chamness was discovered faced against the coal rib and the outby end of the miner’s conveyor boom was against the middle of his back.

An autopsy found the cause of death was blunt force trauma resulting from a crushing injury to the chest.

A review of the equipment and training records relating to the victim found no contributory discrepancies.

MSHA ultimately found that the mine’s procedures for safety in the “red zone” – those areas around continuous mining machines that have an increased hazard while the unit is in motion – were not being complied with by crews.

“The accident occurred because the mine operator did not ensure that the mine’s roof control plan and the company policies in place at the time of the accident were being followed,” investigators concluded.

“The mine operator did not have engineering controls in place to prevent this type of accident.”

In addition, federal officials said the mine operator did not have a method to prevent damage to the valve bank and solenoids component assembly on the continuous mining machine.

The agency requires the operator to submit revisions to its roof control plan, including re-instruction of all employees on the “red zone” procedures, de-energising of the pump motor on the continuous mining machine before anyone enters the red zone and the procedure that no one shall be in the “red zone” when the continuous mining machine is being trammed from place to place or being re-positioned in the working place.

Additionally, the mine operator has been ordered to install proximity devices on the mine’s continuous mining machine that was involved in the incident and the remaining fleet of Knight Hawk Coal’s continuous mining machines will have proximity detection installed on a schedule starting in 2013, continuing through 2014 and in 2015 during full rebuilds for the continuous mining machines.

MSHA said any new continuous mining machine purchased by Knight Hawk Coal would be equipped with a proximity detection system.

To rectify the issues, investigators said an additional miner, or “spotter”, would be assigned to assist each continuous mining machine operator in the moving of the continuous mining machine from place to place and for positioning purposes between cuts 1, 2, 3 and/or 4 as depicted in the roof control plan.

Enhanced training will be conducted for all new, inexperienced continuous mining machine operators and the program will include a minimum of a six-month equivalent program.

Finally, MSHA said training sessions on continuous mining machine movement would be conducted one week after initial training, one month after initial training and quarterly in safety meetings.

Another corrective action put into place by the operator was a reconfiguration of the trailing cable anchor point to prevent the cable and restraining clamp from contacting the valve bank and solenoids components mounted on the continuous mining machine that was involved in the accident.

“The mine operator also worked with Joy Manufacturing to install a guard for the valve bank,” MSHA officials said.

“The mine operator will make the same corrections to all of the continuous mining machines currently in their inventory.”

Knight Hawk Coal received a 104(d) (1) citation for a violation of 30 CFR Section 75.220(a)(1) for its failure to comply with the requirements of the approved mine roof control plan section entitled “safety precautions for remote control mining”

Standard 75.220(a) (1) was cited two times in two years at the mine, MSHA said.

The operator also received a 104(a) citation for a violation of 30 CFR Section 75.512 for the mine’s failure to maintain the continuous miner to assure safe operating conditions.

Prairie Eagle South, accessed by five highwall drift openings into the Herrin No. 6 coal seam, averages 7 feet in height.

The mine employs 51 persons, with two production shifts and a maintenance shift, working five days a week to produce an average 6600 short tons of coal per day.

A regular federal safety and health inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.

A previous inspection was completed on December 20, 2012.

The mine’s non-fatal days lost injury incidence rate in 2012 was 5.05, versus the national NFDL rate of 3.52.

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