Harold Lee Graham, 53, was operating a D-11N Caterpillar dozer at ICG Hazard’s East Mac and Nellie mine September 19, pushing spoil material over the top of the highwall, when he and the unit fell approximately 190 feet. The agency said it was not known why the unit continued over the highwall and fell into a pit below.
“The victim died instantly,” according to a preliminary report released that week. “There were no witnesses to the accident.”
Graham was a 30-year veteran of the mining industry, but he had been based at the ICG operation in Perry County, Kentucky for a year.
In hopes of preventing similar such accidents at other mines across the US, MSHA issued a series of best practices. They include:
Remain familiar with your work environment;
Implement safety precautions for adverse weather, lighting and visibility conditions (provide light towers and ensure wipers, washers and defrosters are working properly and window cleaning supplies are readily available);
Ensure the dozer blade is kept between you and the edge when operating close to drop-offs;
Ensure that personnel operating mobile equipment always wear seatbelts;
Conduct pre-operational checks to identify any defects affecting safe equipment operation before placing equipment into service;
Maintain equipment braking and steering systems in good repair; and
Train all employees on proper work procedures and hazard recognition and avoidance.
The agency has also encouraged industry input for other remedies to prevent this type of accident occurring again.
The worker’s death was the 20th death in the US coal industry in 2008 and the fourth in Kentucky. Graham’s fatality was the sixth to be classified by MSHA under Machinery this year.