Poor visibility responsible for pinning death

FEDERAL officials are pointing to visibility problems as the cause of a fatal accident in West Virginia in February.

Staff Reporter
Poor visibility responsible for pinning death

Shuttle car operator John Myles, 44, was killed at the Pocahontas Coal Affinity complex in Raleigh County after being crushed by the battery end of a section scoop as he worked near the rib on the night of February 19.

According to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration’s final investigative report released Friday, the shuttle car operator could not perform his regular duties during the shift because his usual shuttle car was inoperative.

Myles was instructed to help scoop operator Justin Ward clean some areas of the section by shoveling loose material along the coal ribs after each area was scooped.

While Ward operated the scoop and pushed loose coal into the number 6 entry face, he observed Myles shoveling in the number 18 crosscut between the number 6 and 7 entries.

When Ward finished cleaning the number 6 entry, he backed the scoop into the crosscut between the number 5 and number 6 entries (opposite the area he had last seen Myles working in).

“The number 18 crosscut between the number 5 and 6 entries had been previously cleaned but Ward began cleaning it a second time to make it easier for Myles to shovel,” MSHA said.

“As the scoop backed into the crosscut, Ward heard a noise which caused him to stop. He twice yelled for Myles but did not receive an answer.

“Ward then exited the scoop and walked along the operator’s side to the rear of the machine. He observed Myles pinned underneath the batteries of the scoop.”

The final investigative report stated that the accident occurred because Ward’s visibility from the operator’s cab was compromised.

“The accident occurred because the operator of the scoop on the number 3 section did not have the ability to clearly see and react to persons working in close proximity to the machine while it was in motion.

“The operator’s visibility was reduced because the machine was being operated in the reverse direction while the batteries were in an elevated position and while extraneous supplies were located on top of the machine in the operator’s field of view in an area of limited seam height.

“The canopy of the scoop was adjusted due to the seam height to allow the machine to travel to any area of the section, which further limited the viewing area from the operator’s deck of the scoop.”

MSHA issued four notices shortly after the accident to ensure that safeguards are implemented to prevent visibility hazards.

A permissible proximity detection system, capable of detecting the presence of miners and disengaging the equipment’s movement, was installed by the mine operator.

Myles had four years experience as a miner and had worked at Affinity for 14 months prior to the incident.

Affinity, which is owned by Russian operator Metinvest BV, employs 212 workers.

It has received 61 federal enforcement actions from the MSHA so far in 2013 – all are still unassessed.

Myles’ death, which has been classified by MSHA as powered haulage, was the sixth this year in US coal.

He was the second miner over two weeks in February to lose his life at the Affinity mine.

As of August 5, there have been 11 coal fatalities.


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