According to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, 41-year-old mechanic Keith Baker was working at American Energy’s Century operation August 8 when he was struck in the chest by a piece of metal from the top of a base lift jack mounted on a longwall shield.
“The jack catastrophically failed, resulting in the end cap separating from the cylinder and striking the victim,” the agency said in its preliminary findings.
Baker had been a miner for nine years at the time of the incident.
Mine owner Murray Energy said in its initial report that Baker was working alone at the time, and that no other miners were injured.
To help prevent future similar accidents at other US mines, MSHA released a collection of best practice processes for workers and operators including ensuring that a hydraulic system has a means to bleed pressure from components when under repair.
Also, the agency stressed that workers must not alter hydraulic circuits in a way that could trap pressurized hydraulic fluid. Crews should examine and regularly inspect all hydraulic components for defects and also ensure that ratings for hydraulic components are compatible with the intended use.
Operators, before work begins, are reminded to ensure rebuilt components meet original equipment manufacturer specifications, MSHA said, and that all miners are adequately trained in proper maintenance procedures and plan requirements.
Finally, all workers should evaluate potential energy sources prior to working in tight spaces. The agency has provided more information on the topic at its web site under the Safety and Health Outreach Program home page.
Baker’s death was the 12th in coal in 2011, and the fourth to be classified by MSHA as a machinery accident.
The Century mine in Monroe County, a longwall operation, employs 450 workers.