Kentucky mine cited in personnel carrier fatality

FEDERAL officials have pointed to a series of management failures relating to safety and equipment use for the November 2011 death of a mine foreman in eastern Kentucky.
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The scene of a November fatal accident in Kentucky that killed one worker.

Donna Schmidt

Section foreman Jerry Britton, 47, was working on November 7, 2011 near the section belt tailpiece at Hubble Mining’s No. 9 operation while the belt conveyor was being removed.

He was struck by a four-wheeled Johnson Industries personnel carrier that was being used to transport crib blocks.

A review of the DC-powered, two-man carrier involved in the incident at the mine near Eolia, Letcher County, found no deficiencies with the service brake foot pedal and linkage.

Investigators reported the brake would stop the vehicle under all of its normal tested conditions and the park brake would hold it on a grade as designed.

“The accident occurred because of the failure of mine management to ensure that the rubber-tired personnel carrier was being used within design parameters and for its intended purpose of transporting miners,” MSHA concluded in its investigation.

“In addition, the training programs, policies and work procedures used by the mine operator did not ensure that safe working conditions were provided for the employees at all times.”

The agency said the personnel carrier was found being used to transport belt conveyor moving materials at the time of the accident.

“When the direction switch was changed from reverse to forward, the overloaded personnel carrier unexpectedly sped forward, leaving no time for the victim or the driver to react,” MSHA said.

“The victim was struck and received fatal injuries.”

To rectify the issues, officials ordered the operator to develop and implement a plan to prevent such accidents in future, including the prohibition of personnel carriers as a supply hauler or carrier of other extraneous materials at any time.

Hubble Mining also revised its approved training plan and all miners received task training on haulage safety rules and regulations on the mine’s personnel carriers.

Additionally, the involved personnel carrier was removed from service.

“Following an analysis by MSHA’s technical support branch and the manufacturers, changes to the equipment design and to the controller program have been implemented to prevent a recurrence,” the agency said.

“The original equipment design would have prevented the accident by having a neutral start safety feature on the accelerator.

“The mine operator also provided personnel carrier operators with task training for machine operation, including proper operation characteristics of controls, switches, and accelerators.”

Hubble received a 104(d)(1) order for a violation of 30 CFR section 75.1725(a) as the personnel carrier was originally built using a Sevcon controller requiring the accelerator to return to the neutral position (off) prior to the machine going into tram mode that was found to contribute to the victim’s fatal injuries.

“Failure to eliminate this hazard to miners constituted more than ordinary negligence and was an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory safety standard,” MSHA said.

The operator also received a safeguard notice for 30 CFR section 75.1403 because the GT391 model carrier in use for something outside of its intended design was a hazard to workers and impaired visibility and functional controls.

Finally, Johnson Industries received a 104(d)(1) citation for a violation of 30 CFR section 75.1725(a) for not maintaining the unit in a safe operating condition.

The No. 9 mine is developed in the Lower Parsons coal seam and its 17 workers produce about 700 tons of coal during a 10-hour shift, one shift per day, five days per week.

A regular MSHA safety and health inspection was started on October 17, 2011 and was ongoing at the time of the accident.

The mine’s non-fatal days lost rate in 2010 was zero, versus the national average of 3.58.