US coal fatality year in review: Part 6

International Longwall News brings the final segment in its review of this year’s US deaths.

Donna Schmidt


Just days before the US Thanksgiving holiday, another powered haulage incident left one Kentucky surface miner dead.

The seventh fatality in Kentucky this year and 47th overall involved Rhett Mosley, 32, who was driving a lube truck down a slope at Rex Coal’s Rex Strip No. 1 mine and lost control of the vehicle.

“The victim either jumped or was thrown from the truck and received fatal injuries when the truck overturned on him,” MSHA officials said.

Several Kentucky news outlets said the worker was en route to service equipment at the end of the road.

Mosley had six years of experience.

Shortly after the event, federal investigators issued a fatalgram report reminding operations utilizing surface powered haulage to conduct safe operating practices and keep road conditions in check.

Road crews should ensure all haulage roads are constructed to the appropriate grades and lane widths for all equipment used at the minesite, and all outer banks of elevated roadways should have adequately maintained berms.

For operators of mobile equipment, MSHA stressed the use of a seatbelt at all times, and said operators must ensure all employees have been trained on proper operation procedures for equipment as well as hazard recognition and avoidance.

Drivers should also heed traffic rules, signals and warning signs at all times, while mines must ensure such signage and equipment is posted.

Mines must keep equipment braking and steering systems in good repair and adjustment, and the safety features, load limits, operating ranges and overall capabilities of trucks should never be exceeded.

For those behind the wheel, vehicles should always be operated in the appropriate gear and changing gears while descending a grade should be avoided.

Finally, MSHA said operations must ensure there is sufficient illumination for working areas, and that lights on all mobile equipment are maintained. Workers should also never exit or jump from a moving vehicle.

The Rex Strip operation employs 19 miners. MSHA’s final investigation findings are still in process.

Massey Republic

The most recent fatality as of press time was reported on December 4, a truck accident at Massey Energy’s Elk Run Coal Republic mine.

Charlie Qualls, 32, was operating a coal truck for contractor Medford Trucking at the southern West Virginia operation when the runaway vehicle he was operating overturned.

“Federal investigators indicated that faulty brakes may have played a role, as well as icy road conditions,” the agency said shortly after the incident was reported.

The driver had four years of experience.

In a preliminary best practices report released just this week, MSHA stressed that all mines should construct roadway berms to appropriate strengths and geometries and train all employees on proper work procedures, hazard recognition and avoidance.

Drivers, meanwhile, must know the truck’s capabilities, operating ranges and load limits, and keep brakes and other safety features properly maintained.

They should also observe all speed limits and traffic rules, wear a safety belt at all times, and always select the proper gear for downshifting in advance of a grade descent.

MSHA also reminded mines to routinely monitor work habits and examine work areas to ensure safe procedures are being followed, and workers to never attempt to exit or jump from a moving vehicle.

Federal officials have developed a safety program targeting surface equipment operation for coal mines. A one-source page with tips and regulations guidance is available on its web site.

The Republic surface mine in Scarbro, Fayette County, employs 240 workers.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

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