Loose sheave assembly killed miner

FEDERAL investigators are urging operations to be mindful of chains, wire ropes and other types of rigging after revealing that a longwall maintenance coordinator killed earlier this month in northern West Virginia was struck by a loose sheave assembly.

Donna Schmidt

Roger King, 62, died October 4 following an incident at Consol Energy’s McElroy longwall operation in Marshall County. Officials initially did not disclose the details of the incident, only confirming that he had suffered a head injury.

In its preliminary findings, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration said the 42-year mining veteran, who worked at McElroy for 17 years, was killed while supervising the face conveyor chain installation on a longwall set-up.

“A battery-powered scoop was being used in conjunction with a sheave block and wire rope to pull the top conveyor chain through the pan line toward the tail drive,” the agency said.

“The chain became fouled and the victim positioned himself to observe the cause of the problem.

“As the scoop continued to tram, the sheave assembly and wire rope, which were under tension, came loose and propelled forward. The sheave assembly struck the victim.”

The operation was closed after the incident and recommenced operations on October 6.

In an effort to prevent similar future incidents, MSHA has asked miners to ensure chains, wire ropes, and hooks are properly attached or rigged, and people are positioned in a safe location before tension is applied when pulling or lifting rigging.

“This includes staying out of a potential line of flight of components in case of an equipment failure,” investigators noted.

Operations should also inspect devices for signs of wear such as rust, metallic loss, fraying rope, broken strands in cables and elongation of metal. Also, hooks should never be welded on equipment in order to attach ropes or chains for towing or hoisting.

King’s death was the 15th in US coal in 2013, and the fifth classified by MSHA as powered haulage.

McElroy, located near Moundsville is one of the US’ largest underground coal mines and employs about 1000 workers.

It produced 9.4 million short tons in 2012, according to federal data.

The fatality was West Virginia’s sixth this year.


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