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MSHA spotlights hazardous face conditions post-fatality

FEDERAL investigators are urging mines to correct hazardous roof, face and rib conditions and to be aware of conditions through thorough examinations, after a miner was killed earlier this month at an Illinois operation.

Donna Schmidt

Longwall chief Dallas Dwaine Travelstead, 36, was killed on November 4 at M-Class Mining’s MC No. 1 mine near Akin, Franklin County, while shovelling loose coal and rock between the coal face and the pan line on a longwall section.

“The victim received crushing injuries when a solid piece of coal and cap rock fell from the coalface, striking and pinning him against the face side of the pan line,” MSHA said in its preliminary report.

It added that the coal/rock combination measured approximately four feet and 10 inches long, by 2ft and 3in wide and up to 24in thick.

Travelstead had 16 years of mining experience.

In an effort to prevent future similar incidents at other mines in the nation, the agency stressed that all operations should conduct thorough examinations of the mine’s roof, face and ribs, including a visual examination and a sound and vibration test prior to miners being assigned to work or travel through an area.

MSHA said hazardous roof, face or rib conditions should be corrected before any work or travel is permitted in the affected area and any loose or unconsolidated material removed with a bar of suitable length and design.

Its best practices also include supporting exposed longwall roof, face and ribs by mechanical means in immediate work areas and training all miners in hazard recognition and safe work practices.

MSHA said all operators should institute additional safety precautions in areas where geological changes and anomalies in strata were present and post a certified foreman at the work area when maintenance was being performed.

When de-energising a face conveyor, crews should notify the headgate operator and disconnect power at the control station while work is being performed.

“Do not energise the conveyor until all persons are off the face side of the conveyor and the conveyor is supported adequately from inadvertent movement,” investigators said.

Travelstead’s death was the 19th in coal in 2013 and the second this year to be classified by the agency as fall of face, rib, side or highwall.

M-Class Mining is an arm of Coalfield Transport.

The bituminous MC No. 1 mine last had a fatality in 2010 when a contractor was killed.

According to federal data, the mine produced more than 4.6 million short tons in 2012 with a non-fatal days lost average of 2.78, versus the national average of 3.24.

However, through the third quarter of this year, the mine’s NFDL rate has been 4.22, above the 2.9 national NFDL.

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