DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health
Report of Investigation
Surface Non-Metal Mine
(Sand and Gravel)
Fatal Other (Drowning) Accident
November 9, 2001
Irwindale, Los Angeles County, California
ID No. 04-01734
John D. Pereza
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Christopher J. Kelly
Isabel R. Williams
Mine Safety and Health Specialist
Mine Safety and Health Administration
2060 Peabody Road, Suite 610
Lee D. Ratliff, District Manager
On November 9, 2001, John Garcia, plant conveyor-man was fatally injured when he drowned after falling into the dredge lake while he and another employee were doing clean up in the area with a water hose.
The accident occurred because hazards related to the task had not been properly evaluated. Neither man was wearing a life jacket, which contributed to the severity of the injuries.
Garcia had 15 years of mining experience, and had been at this plant for 10 months. He had received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 46.
The Durbin Plant, a surface sand and gravel mine operated by CalMat Co., a subsidiary of Vulcan Materials Company, was located in Irwindale, Los Angeles County, California. Principal operating officials were J. W. Smack, president, Denny Robinson, plant manager, and Brian Oulette, plant foreman. The mine operated two, eight-hour shifts, five days a week. Total employment was 31 persons.
Sand and gravel was extracted by dredge from the bottom of a 70-acre lake located on the mine site. Material was transported from the dredge to land using a series of conveyor belts. The belts, like the dredge, floated on pontoons. The material was transferred by overland conveyors to the main plant where the material was crushed and sized. The finished product was used in the construction industry.
The last regular inspection was conducted on July 11, 2001. Another inspection was conducted following the accident investigation.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT
On the day of the accident, John Garcia (victim) reported for work at 4:30 a.m., his regular starting time. At about 8:30 a.m., Kirk Herrick, foreman, directed Garcia and another employee, Clay Hall, to clean up spillage under the tail section of the Number 11 conveyor (water to land conveyor). Spillage of fines accumulated in this area on a regular basis and was normally cleaned one or two times a week using a high pressure water hose. The water was supplied from a water truck. At about 9:00 a.m., Hall finished filling the water truck and met Garcia at the tail section of the number 11 belt. The two men took turns using the hose to wash fines from under the belt without incident.
Hall was using the hose when Herrick arrived. Herrick instructed Garcia to wash down an additional area under the conveyor at the edge of the bank. When Herrick left, the men completed washing the fines from under the belt and then began to wash away the material from the bank.
Hall, who was standing about three feet from the bank using the hose, stumbled, lost his footing and fell into the water. Garcia, attempting to assist Hall, fell into the water himself. John Sprein, dredge operator, was working several hundred feet away and observed the incident. He radioed for help and ran to the scene where he found Hall still in the water clinging to a pipe that ran along the bottom of the water to land conveyor. He did not see Garcia. Herrick and Denny Robinson, plant manager, arrived and searched the water for Garcia. Rescue divers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department found the victims body several hours later in about forty feet of water. Death was attributed to drowning.
INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT
MSHA was notified of the accident at 10:10 a.m., on November 9, 2001, by a telephone call from Steve Hopkins, safety and health specialist for Vulcan Materials Company to Ramona Broadnax, western district secretary. An investigation was started on the same day. An order was issued pursuant to Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of the miners. MSHA's accident investigation team traveled to the mine, conducted an inspection of the accident site, interviewed a number of persons, and reviewed appropriate training records and work procedures. The miners did not request, nor have, representation during the investigation.
The root cause of the accident was the failure to identify the hazards associated with the task so that safe job procedures could be implemented. Failure to wear life jackets contributed to the severity of the injuries.
Order No. 6333375 was issued November 9, 2001 under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on November 9, 2001, when a conveyor-man drowned in the dredge lake. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this operation and prohibits any work in the affected area until MSHA determines that it is safe to resume normal operations as determined by an authorized representative of the secretary of labor. The mine operator shall obtain approval from an authorized representative for all actions to recover and/or restore operations in the affected area.Order No. 6333375 was terminated on November 29, 2001. Conditions that contributed to the accident no longer exist and normal mining operations can resume.
Citation No. 633377 was issued on November 23, 2001 under the provisions of Section 104a of the Mine Act for a violation of 30 CFR 56.15020:
A fatal accident occurred at this operation on November 9, 2001, when a conveyor-man drowned. The conveyor-man and a co-worker were using a high pressure water hose to remove material spillage under a conveyor structure. Prior to the accident, the co-worker was positioned near the edge of the embankment and fell into the water. The victim attempted to help his co-worker and fell into the water and drowned. Life jackets were not being worn.The citation was terminated on November 11, 2001. Company employees were re-trained in the use of life jackets when working near water.
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Persons Participating in the Investigation
CalMat Co.(Vulcan Materials)
Kirk Herrick ............... foremanState of California
Stephen Hopkins ............... safety and health specialist
Cynthia Kirby ............... manager of safety, health and environmental
Brian Oulette ............... plant foreman
Denny Robinson ............... plant manager
Department of Industrial Relations
Division of Occupational Safety and Health
Pete Dizon ............... senior engineerO'Melveny & Myers LLP
James Wittry ............... associate engineer
Scott Dunham ............... attorney at lawMine Safety and Health Administration
John D. Pereza ............... mine safety and health inspector
Harvey Brooks ............... mine safety and health inspector
Christopher J. Kelly ............... civil engineer
Isabel R. Williams ............... mine safety and health specialist (training)
Persons interviewed during the investigation
John Sprein ............... dredge operator
Clay Hall ............... truck driver
Kirk Herrick ............... mine foreman
James Hopcus ............... dredge operator
Paul Versteeg ............... mechanic