From the Assistant Secretary's Desk — Mid-year summary of fatal accidents
(Jan. 1 through June 30, 2011)
In the first six months of 2011, 14 miners have been killed in mining accidents in the United States: six miners in the metal and nonmetal (M/NM) mining industry and 8 in the coal mining industry.
Even though the number of mining deaths for the first half of this year are at an all-time low, one mining death is still one too many.
The causes of the fatal accidents are as follows:
Four miners (three coal and one M/NM) were killed as a result of Machinery accidents. Three miners (two coal and one M/NM) miners were killed in Powered Haulage accidents. Two coal miners are dead as a result of Fall of Rib accidents, and two M/MN miners died as a result of Fall of Roof accidents. Two miners (one coal and one M/NM) were killed in Fall of Person accidents. One M/NM miner was killed when he was struck by Sliding Material.
Contractor deaths remain a concern to the mining industry: two (33%) of the six M/NM fatalities and three (38%) of the coal mining fatalities were contractors.
Here are brief summaries of these accidents:
Four miners were killed in Machinery accidents
- A miner was killed at a coal mine when the fuel and grease service truck he was operating collided head on with a scraper traveling in the opposite direction, resulting in a fire that engulfed the fuel truck.
- A continuous coal mining machine operator with was killed when he was caught between the coal rib and the conveyor boom of the remote controlled continuous mining machine he was operating.
- A mechanic was killed at a coal mine when a counterweight fuel tank assembly on a front-end loader he was attempting to repair fell on him after he removed 14 of 16 mounting bolts and the remaining bolts failed to hold the counterweight, which had not been blocked to prevent it from falling.
- A contract grader operator was killed at a phosphate rock operation. The victim and a coworker were standing and talking when he was struck by a grader that was backing up. The accident occurred in a staging area where equipment operators were inspecting their equipment before the shift.
Three miners were killed in Powered Haulage accidents
- An underground coal miner was killed when he became caught between the "V" shaped coal discharge guides adjacent to the discharge roller of the section conveyor belt. Both belt conveyors were operating at the time of the accident.
- A contract coal truck driver was fatally injured when the loaded Mack truck he was driving overturned on the driver's while descending an 18% grade, entrapping and killing him.
- An equipment operator was killed at a sand and gravel operation when he was cleaning a tramp metal magnet on a belt conveyor when it started.
Two M/NM miners were killed in Fall of Roof accidents
- A miner was killed at an underground silver operation. He was wetting a muck pile in a stope when a fall of back approximately 90 feet long struck him.
- A drill operator was killed at an underground crushed stone operation. He was walking in a crosscut when a slab of roof approximately 5 feet wide by 6 feet long by 10 inches thick struck him.
Two coal miners were killed in Fall of Rib accidents
- A crew leader who was cleaning the coal mine floor to install timbers received fatal crushing injuries from a coal and rock brow fell from the top of the rib and struck him.
- A continuous haulage cable attendant at a coal mine was killed when he was struck by a section of rib.
Two miners were killed in Fall of Person accidents
- A mill operator at a surface gold operation sweeping in the crusher building was killed when he fell through an unsecured opening approximately 60 feet to the floor below.
- A contract steelworker engaged in cutting operations at a coal mine was killed when he fell approximately 8 feet from a steel beam and hit a lower cross beam before landing on a conveyor belt cover about 32 inches below the cross beam. He had been engaged in cutting operations just prior to the fall, and was repositioning when he removed his lanyard tie-off safety device from the location where it was secured.
- A contract superintendent was killed at a phosphate rock operation while he was trying to join two ends of 24-inch diameter pipe. Two excavators were being used to position the pipe in the saddle of a pipe fusing machine when the pipe slipped out and struck him.
Mining Deaths from 2001 to June 30, 2011 -- Best Practices
Preventable deaths continue to occur in the mining industry in the United States. In metal and nonmetal mining, between 2001 and June 30, 2011, there have been 93 powered haulage fatalities; 62 miners killed working around, under, or inside machinery; 35 miners died from falls; 31 fatalities from falling/sliding material; 18 fatalities from roof or rib rolls; and 18 fatalities from electrical accidents. During the same period, 82 fatalities occurred in other categories.
In coal mining, between 2001 and June 30, 2011, there were 86 powered haulage fatalities; 48 miners killed working around, under, or inside machinery; 27 fatalities from rib rolls or pillar failures; and 19 miners died from slipping or falling. During the same period, 154 fatalities occurred in other categories.
Fatalities can be prevented. They are not inevitable in mining. Effective safety and health management programs save lives. Workplace examinations for hazards can identify and eliminate hazards that kill and injure miners. Effective and appropriate training will help ensure that miners recognize and understand hazards and know how to control or eliminate them.
Each life lost is a tragedy for a family, a mining operation, and a community.
First and foremost, mine operators must take responsibility for the health and safety conditions in their mines to prevent these tragedies. Congress explicitly stated in the findings and purpose of the federal Mine Safety and Health Act that "deaths and serious injuries from unsafe and unhealthful conditions and practices in the coal or other mines cause grief and suffering to the miners and to their families" Congress clearly sought to end this grief and suffering. That Mine Act also makes clear that mine operators are responsible for maintaining safe and healthful workplaces in compliance with the laws, rules and regulations designed to improve mine safety and health in this country. That Mine Act obligates mine operators to, among other things, examine mines to find and fix conditions that could harm miners. The law is clear that operators must take ownership of safety and health at their mines.
The importance and value of effective safety and health management programs cannot be overstated. A thorough, systematic review of all tasks and equipment to identify hazards is the foundation of a well-designed safety and health management program. Modify equipment, processes, work procedures and management systems to eliminate or control identified hazards. Operators and contractors should create effective safety and health management programs, ensure that they are implemented, and periodically review, evaluate, and update them. If an accident or near miss does occur, find out why and act to prevent recurrence. If changes to equipment, materials or work processes introduce new risks into the mine environment, they must be addressed immediately.
Conducting workplace examinations before beginning a shift and during a shift - every shift - can prevent deaths by finding and fixing safety and health hazards. All required workplace examinations must be performed and identified problems resolved to protect workers.
Effective and appropriate training will help ensure that miners recognize and understand hazards and how to control or eliminate them.
Miners deserve a safe and healthy workplace and the right to go home to their families and loved ones safe and well at the end of every shift, every day. We must all work together to make that happen.