Preventing falls

THE passing away of a West Virginia coal worker last week, following an incident on November 4 when he fell at a preparation facility, has prompted the US Mine Safety and Health Administration to release tips on fall prevention for other operations.
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Donna Schmidt

The total number of coal mining-related fatalities for 2007 stood at 32 until January 2, when Larry Bird, 42, who was injured at Weatherby Processing's Remington preparation facility, passed away after a fall from a catwalk.

The 27-year veteran floor walker/mechanic fell about 24ft from the plant's third floor to its ground floor, the agency said.

"During the replacement of an eight-inch media pipe, the victim dropped an impact wrench onto a six-inch ledge located along the inside of the plant wall," MSHA said.

"While attempting to retrieve the impact wrench, the victim crossed beyond the handrail and fell."

MSHA added that his death resulted from his sustained injuries.

To help prevent future such accidents at other mines across the nation, those classified by MSHA as slip/fall of person, it released a series of best practices. They include:

Use appropriate fall protection equipment when a falling hazard exists;

Stop, Look, Analyze and Manage (SLAM) each step of a task to identify and address all potential hazards; and

Establish safe work procedures and train personnel before beginning the task.

MSHA has requested any additional suggestions to remedy such situations in the future. Input can be submitted via the agency's website, citing the fatality number and year.

Although the death occurred in 2008, it has been counted as a 2007 fatality because of the date of the initial accident, the agency said.

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