MSHA cites operator in drowning death

WHILE its 10-month investigation into a December 2008 drowning fatality was inconclusive, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration has cited the operator for failing to provide site-specific training.

Donna Schmidt

Preparation plant foreman Mark McIntyre, 57, was working at the Ireland River Loading Facility in Marshall County, West Virginia, in the evening of December 29, 2008, when he apparently fell from a barge into the Ohio River. After being reported missing, his body was later found and recovered.

The loadout, owned by Consol Energy, serves the nearby McElroy underground longwall mine.

“[McIntyre] was assigned the task of examining the storage area of each barge located at the Ireland River Loading Facility for water, to determine if the water needed to be pumped out, and then examine the conveyor belts from the loadout back to the preparation plant near the end of the shift,” MSHA noted in its report, adding that the preparation plant management team from McElroy supervises the Ireland facility as part of regular duties.

“Due to the lack of conclusive evidence, it could not be determined why or how Mark McIntyre fell into the Ohio River and drowned as he was performing his assigned duties.”

However, in its root cause analysis, MSHA determined that Consol did not provide McIntyre with adequate hazard training. After viewing hazard training materials provided to McElroy employees, investigators could not find documentation or videos related to loadout duties.

“During the inspection, it appeared as though the miners working at the river loading facility had been systematically treated as employees of the McElroy Preparation Plant,” it noted.

As a result, it issued a citation under federal guideline 30 CFR, section 48.31(a) for Consol’s failure to provide the site-specific training.

The Ireland facility is staffed by 19 hourly employees and is managed by the foreman of McElroy’s preparation plant.

A federal safety and health inspection was in progress at the time of the incident, MSHA noted, and its last completed review was July 11, 2008. The loadout’s non-fatal days lost incident rate for 2008 was zero, versus the national average of 4.36.

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