OK operator settles with MSHA in truck fatality case

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration has reached a settlement with Oklahoma-based Farrell-Cooper Mining over the 2007 death of a truck driver at one of the company’s surface coal operations.

Donna Schmidt

Driver Jack Ward, 66, died November 16, 2007, after the haulage truck he was operating at the Rock Island mine backed over the edge of a spoil dump, rolled 177 feet down the dump slope and came to rest upside down in a pool of water. Investigators ruled the cause of death as drowning.

The agency settled with the operator of the Le Flore County operation, with Farrell-Cooper agreeing to pay $US375,204 for seven citations, including three flagrant violations.

“New miners need to be properly trained to anticipate and avoid potentially deadly hazards in the workplace,” MSHA assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.

“Furthermore, the mining environment needs to be properly inspected to detect unsafe conditions that can easily endanger miners, and proper safety measures must be in place to prevent accidents. Due to the mine operator’s failure to provide these protections, a miner tragically died.”

The first of the three flagrant violations stemmed from Farrell-Cooper’s failure to provide the victim with new miner training.

While the MSHA Certificate of Training form completed by the company stated that eight hours of training had been done on November 2, the investigation revealed Ward had been at the mine just two hours that day as he had to leave the site for a pre-employment physical.

Ward began driving the truck at the operation four days later and the fatal accident occurred 10 days later.

The second flagrant violation was issued for failure to conduct shift examinations and identify hazardous conditions.

“MSHA’s inspection revealed that 675 feet of elevated roadways and dump sites at the mine had deficient berms, which directly contributed to the fatal accident, as well as [a] lost-time injury accident two weeks earlier,” the agency said.

The third flagrant violation was issued to Farrell-Cooper for not providing berms, bumper blocks, safety hooks or other similar overtravel and overturning prevention methods at the pit spoil dump. The mine’s dump sites were missing 185ft of berm, including the location of the fatal incident.

MSHA also cited the operator for insufficient illumination which failed to make visible the pit’s edges.

Mine superintendent Greg Bryce pleaded guilty September 15 this year in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma for knowingly allowing miners to work without the required number of introductory training hours during November 2007.

The mine’s operator accepted all seven citations as written, except for one minor change, and agreed to pay 80% of the originally assessed penalties.