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Proximity detection highlighted after fatal accident

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration has reiterated the importance of proximity detection systems after the latest in a serious rash of fatal powered haulage incidents.

Donna Schmidt
Proximity detection highlighted after fatal accident

Section foreman Thomas Brown, 61, was working at Peabody Energy’s Willow Lake operation on July 9 when he was struck by a loaded battery-powered ram car.

“The victim was last seen in the No. 6 entry just out by the intersection at crosscut No. 107,” the agency said of the incident.

“This intersection and adjoining crosscuts were being used to gain access to the ratio feeder located in the No. 5 entry.”

Brown had more than three decades of mining experience at various underground operations, and had been with Willow Lake for more than three years.

To prevent future incidents at other US operations, MSHA compiled best practices for operations.

At the top of that list is the use of proximity detection systems, which sound an alarm for workers in a red zone and power down a machine when someone remains in the area.

The agency has created a single source page on its website with information on the technology and system manufacturers.

Also highlighted as best practices:

  • Use approved translucent check curtains designed to allow mobile equipment to tram through;
  • Sound audible warnings when making turns, reversing directions, approaching ventilation curtains, and any time the operator's visibility is obstructed. The sound level of audible warnings must be significantly higher than that of ambient noise;
  • Be aware of blind spots when travelling in mobile equipment travel ways; and
  • Communicate your position and intended movements to mobile equipment operators.

Federal officials encourage anyone with additional prevention ideas to submit them through its website, including the year of the fatality and the fatality number.

The worker’s death was the 41st in the industry in the 2010 calendar year and the third classified by MSHA under Powered Haulage.

The 400-worker Willow Lake mine, operated by Peabody subsidiary Big Ridge, sold 3.7 million tons to its utility customers in 2008.

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