DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
UNDERGROUND COAL MINE
FATAL ELECTRICAL ACCIDENT
No. 4 Mine [I.D. No. 15-04020]
Wolf Creek Collieries Co.
Lovely, Martin County, Kentucky
October 20, 1995
Coal Mine Safety and Health Specialist
Robert M. Bates
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Ratliff Creek Road, Pikeville, Kentucky 41501
Carl E. Boone, II, District Manager
The No.4 Mine of Wolf Creek Collieries, Co., is located approximately five miles southwest of Lovely, Kentucky off State Route 292. The underground coal mine began operations on July 7, 1971. The mine is opened by four shafts and one slope into the Alma coal bed. The coal seam averages 66 inches in thickness locally.
The principal company officials at the present time are: C.B. Vyas, president; David M. Young, vice president; and M.A. Kafouny, secretary. Wolf Creek Collieries, Co., is a subsidiary of SMC Mining Company, 50 Jerome Lane, Fairview Heights, Illinois.
On September 30, 1995, a reduction in force was implemented at the mine. On October 2, 1995, the operational status of the mine was changed from active producing (AA) to active non-producing (BA). A total of 25 persons are currently employed at the mine, which operates one eight hour shift, five days per week. The work consists of maintenance, water pumping operations, and equipment recovery.
The last health and safety inspection by the Mine Safety and Health Administration was completed on September 7, 1995.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On the day of the accident, the shift began at approximately 8:00 a.m. Charles Smith and Joe Walters, electricians, were assigned the task of removing the drum from a continuous miner located near the bottom of the Caney shaft. Bill Osborne, foreman, was supervising the removal of tools, supply cars, and personnel carriers from the bottom of the shaft to the surface area of the mine. Tim Penix, chief electrician, was initially working on a trolley rectifier located approximately six crosscuts inby the No.10 belt head drive. Norman Bowens, electrician, was assigned the task of resetting circuit breakers supplying several water pumps underground.
During the morning hours, the oil circuit breaker for the 12,470 volt underground mine power circuit had tripped several times. At least once that day there had been a general power outage (utility related) affecting the entire mine. The mine has two separate 12,470 volt circuits extending underground: one serves the longwall system and associated pumps, and the other supplies power to the rest of the mine. Junction boxes in the longwall power circuit are colored red while junction boxes in the mine power circuit are colored yellow. The electricians at the mine believed that the underground power problems were being caused by carbon tracking in high voltage junction boxes.
At approximately 12:00 p.m., there was a power outage affecting both underground high voltage circuits. Tim Penix, who was located at the No.13 belt head drive, called Bill Osborne on the mine phone and instructed him to reset the circuit breakers for both high voltage circuits. (A visible disconnect is provided for each high voltage circuit at the bottom of the Caney shaft) He began giving Osborne instructions to relay to Smith and Walters, but Osborne interrupted him and recommended that he talk to Smith and Walters directly. Osborne engaged the circuit breakers for both high voltage circuits and then summoned Smith and Walters to the mine phone.
Penix told Smith and Walters to deenergize and lock out the mine power circuit at the No. 10 belt head drive switchouse and then call him back from that location. He instructed them to clean the cable termination points in the mine power circuit high voltage junction boxes, starting at the No. 10 belt head drive switchouse, and proceeding in the inby direction. He also told them that he would begin cleaning junction boxes at the No. 13 belt head drive power center and proceed in the outby direction until he met them. This was the last communication with Penix prior to his death.
Smith and Walters traveled from the bottom area of the Caney shaft to the No. 10 belt head drive switchouse. As they were approaching the switchouse, the mine power circuit failed again. The lights at the switchouse went out, indicating a failure in the mine power circuit. They locked out the mine power circuit and then tried to contact Penix on the mine phone. When they received no response, they began cleaning junction boxes in the inby direction as previously instructed by Penix.
Smith and Walters arrived at the No. 13 belt head drive power center at approximately 12:45 p.m. There they found the victim lying face down on the high voltage junction box located adjacent to the No. 13 belt head drive power center. The victim's knees were on the ground and both arms were extended into the junction box. Walters immediately called Osborne and told him to deenergize the power. After Osborne called back and confirmed that the power was deenergized, Smith checked Penix for a pulse and found none. Norm Bowens, who had heard about the accident on the mine phone, arrived shortly thereafter and helped Smith remove the victim from the junction box. The victim was transported to the surface of the mine where he was pronounced dead by the Martin County deputy coroner.
The junction box involved in the accident was painted yellow, but was actually a part of the longwall power circuit. The No. 13 belt head drive power center received power from the mine power circuit and was also painted yellow.
The investigation revealed the following factors relevant to the
occurrence of the accident:
- There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.
- The victim was found lying face down on top of the junction
box with his arms extending into the interior of the box.
- A rag was found on one of the connection points inside of
the enclosure. A can of electrical contact cleaner was found
adjacent to the junction box. The lid for the can was lying
on the floor of the junction box.
- Evidence indicates that the victim made contact with two
phases and that this contact initiated an arc. The
overcurrent relays located in the switchouse at the bottom
of the Caney shaft indicated a time overcurrent trip.
- The accident area was generally dry.
- The mine receives power from Kentucky Power Company through
a 34,500 volt service drop. Power is transformed at that
point to 12,470 volts by a 7,500 KVA open-type substation
for underground transmission.
- The substation located on the surface was tested and found
to be in compliance with 30 CFR.
- The mine has two separate 12,470 volt circuits extending
underground: one serves the longwall system and associated
pumps, and the other supplies power to the rest of the mine.
Junction boxes in the longwall power circuit are colored red
while junction boxes in the mine power circuit are colored
- Both underground power circuits are sectionalized and
provided with time overcurrent relays for coordination.
- It was an accepted practice at the mine to associate the
color red with longwall power and the color yellow with mine
- The junction box involved in the accident was painted yellow
but was actually a part of the longwall power circuit. A
small paper tag identifying the box as part of the longwall
power circuit was attached to each end of the enclosure.
- During the investigation, approximately 35 high voltage
junction boxes, in both power circuits, were examined by
MSHA and Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. With
the exception of the junction box involved in the accident,
mine power junction boxes were painted yellow and longwall
power junction boxes were painted red.
- The junction box involved in the accident was manufactured
by Mining Controls Incorporated and was originally equipped
with "cat whisker" type lid switches. These lid switches
were designed to be connected in series with the high
voltage ground monitor circuit and would normally deenergize
the circuit upon removal of the lid.
- The original lid switches had been replaced with magnetic
type switches, which had been disconnected at some time
prior to the accident.
- The lid switches were installed correctly on all other junction boxes examined during the investigation.
The victim was electrocuted while performing work on a high voltage circuit that was not deenergized, grounded, locked out, and suitably tagged. The junction box involved in the accident was colored yellow, but was actually a part of the longwall power circuit. The power center located adjacent to the junction box was also colored yellow, but was supplied by the mine power circuit. When the mine power circuit tripped shortly before the accident, the victim apparently assumed that the junction box (which was the same color as the adjacent power center) was deenergized. The power center next to the junction box contained transformers which would have become silent when the mine power tripped.
The lid switches in the junction box would have normally deenergized the circuit upon removal of the cover, but they were disconnected at the time of the accident. The confusion inherent in the color convention used by the company, coupled with the disconnected lid switches, set the stage for this accident.
- A 103(k) Order (No. 4511382) was issued on October 20, 1995,
in conjunction with this investigation.
- A 104(a) Citation (No. 4014791) was issued on October 26,
1995. Electrical work was performed on a high voltage
circuit that was not deenergized, locked out and tagged.
The citation was issued under Title 30 CFR, Part 75.511.
- A 104(a) Citation (No. 4014792) was issued on October 26,
1995. Electrical work was performed on a high voltage line
that was not deenergized and grounded. The citation was
issued under Title 30 CFR, Part 75.705.
- A 104(a) Citation (No. 4014793) was issued on October 26,
1995. A dangerous condition, which contributed to an
electrical fatality, existed at the high voltage junction
box adjacent to the No.13 belt head drive power center. The
hazard was created by the following conditions:
- the magnetic lid switches were disconnected on the high
voltage junction box; and
- the color of the junction box involved in the fatality was not consistent with the accepted color convention used at the mine to distinguish between the two underground high voltage distribution lines.
The citation was issued under Title 30 CFR, Part 75.512.
- the magnetic lid switches were disconnected on the high voltage junction box; and
Respectfully submitted by:
Coal Mine Safety and Health Specialist/Accident Investigator
Robert M. Bates
Carl E. Boone, II
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