DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
UNDERGROUND COAL MINE
FATAL POWERED-HAULAGE ACCIDENT
Mountaineer Mine (ID No. 46-06958)
Mingo Logan Coal Company
Mahon Enterprises, Inc. (ID No. GXI)
Wharncliffe, Mingo County, West Virginia
January 2, 1995
William A. Blevins
Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Michael J. Lawless, District Manager
On Tuesday, January 2, 1995, about 12:40 a.m., a powered-haulage accident occurred in the No. 1 belt conveyor entry of the 6 Right longwall panel, 40 feet to the right of Survey Station No. 110, resulting in the death of Dave Thorn, contract beltman.
The belt crew was in the process of pulling a 400-foot roll of 54-inch conveyor belt from the belt winder to the track entry with a 15-ton track locomotive. A 1/2-inch steel wire rope and a chain were connected between the locomotive and roll of belt. The accident occurred when the chain became fouled against an anchor pin installed in the mine floor. The rope came loose from the chain, striking the victim in the neck as he was walking toward the belt winder.
The accident and resultant fatality occurred because the operator failed to take appropriate precautions to assure that persons did not enter an area where a known hazard existed. Also, appropriate precautions were not taken to ensure the work area was free of obstructions and that the equipment used was maintained in a safe operating condition.
The Mountaineer Mine of Mingo Logan Coal Company is located near Wharncliffe, Mingo County, West Virginia. The mine is developed from the surface by 10 drift entries into the Lower Cedar Grove coalbed that averages about 60 inches in height. The mine began production on June 26, 1991.
Employment is provided for 305 persons on two production and one maintenance shifts. The mine produces an average of 30,000 tons of raw coal daily from four continuous-mining sections and one longwall section. Coal is transported from the sections to the surface via belt conveyors.
The immediate mine roof is sandstone and is primarily supported with 48-inch resin rods.
Ventilation is induced into the mine by a 7-foot exhaust fan which produces about 600,000 cubic feet of air per minute and a 54-inch bleeder fan which produces about 50,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine liberates approximately 151,000 cubic feet of methane daily in a 24-hour period.
Mahon Enterprises, Inc., provides general contracting services for the production operator on all shifts and employs 49 contract miners at this mine. The principal officers of Mahon Enterprises, Inc., are Amon Mahon, president, and Lenville Mahon, safety director. The contractor performs work outby the working sections such as cleaning, rock dusting, erecting overcasts, spot roof bolting, and cribbing.
Mingo Logan Coal Company is a subsidiary of Ashland Coal, Inc. The principal officers of Mingo Logan Coal Company are Markus John Ladd, director/president; James Thomas Dilley, director; Chester Russell Maberry, vice president; James M. Mullins, mine manager; and Clifton L. Frye, superintendent.
The principal officers of Ashland Coal, Inc., are William Creel Payne, president; Clarence Henry Besten, Jr., senior vice president; Marc Roger Solochek, senior vice president; Kenneth George Woodring, senior vice president; and Roy Franklin Layman, administrative vice president.
The last regular AAA inspection was completed December 15, 1994. A regular AAA inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.
STORY OF EVENT
On Monday, January 1, 1995, at 10:00 p.m., Jim Auxier, contract belt foreman for Mahon Enterprises, Inc., arrived at the mine office and received his work orders from Carlos Porter, shift foreman, before beginning the third shift. Auxier's work orders included removing conveyor belt from the 6 Right longwall belt conveyor belt winder.
About 11:00 p.m., Auxier instructed contract beltmen, Guy Farley and Randy Stafford, to get a shield car and two track locomotives from the supply yard and informed them that they were to remove two rolls of belt from the 6 Right longwall belt conveyor. The two rolls of belt were to be loaded on the shield car and transported to another underground area for storage. Removing and loading belt from the longwall panel cars were regularly performed by Auxier, Farley, and Stafford.
Auxier and the two beltmen proceeded underground with the two 15- ton locomotives and the shield car to the 6 Left spur track where they were to wait for the supply crew to pass. While the belt crew was waiting for the supply crew, Farley walked to the 6 Right belt where he met Dave Thorn, contract beltman.
Thorn informed Farley that he had observed a bad splice in the 6 Right longwall belt conveyor. Farley told Thorn that they were going to load belt from the longwall section and that he would check the conveyor for bad splices. Farley informed Auxier that Thorn had observed a bad splice in the belt. Farley then proceeded back to the belt conveyor to make an examination of the splices.
After the supply crew passed, Auxier and Stafford proceeded to the 6 Right longwall belt conveyor belt winder with one of the locomotives and the shield car. Stafford removed a 400-foot roll of belt from the belt winder and connected a 1/2-inch wire rope to the locomotive. Stafford then passed the steel rope through a sheave wheel attached to an anchor pin in the mine floor. Auxier connected the other end of the steel rope to a 1/2-inch steel chain which had been connected to a bar inserted through the roll of belt.
Farley completed checking the belt splices and walked to the track entry where he could relay signals from Auxier to Stafford.
Auxier signaled for Stafford to start pulling the belt with the locomotive. Stafford started pulling the roll of belt until Auxier signaled him to stop. The roll of belt continued to roll until the chain became fouled on an anchor pin installed in the mine floor between the conveyor and the right coal rib. The roll of belt had been pulled about 30 feet from the winder.
Auxier examined the roll of belt but could not see that the chain was fouled against the anchor pin. Auxier again signaled for Stafford to pull the roll of belt. Stafford started pulling the roll of belt again. Under tension, the rope came loose from the chain, and as it recoiled, it struck Thorn who apparently had just walked into the area.
Auxier was positioned on the left side of the conveyor and heard the rope come loose. When Auxier walked toward the roll of belt, he saw a cap-light lying on the mine floor in the belt entry. Auxier then discovered Thorn and removed the wire rope from around Thorn's neck. Auxier instructed Farley to call for an ambulance. Stafford ran to the site, assessed Thorn's vital signs, and began CPR with the assistance of Auxier and Farley.
Stafford, an emergency medical technician, also determined that Thorn had sustained critical injuries to the neck. Four miners carried Thorn about 50 feet to the track entry. Thorn was loaded in a personnel carrier and transported to the surface while the miners continued administering CPR. Thorn was transported by ambulance to the Man Appalachian Regional Hospital where he was stabilized before being transferred to the Charleston Area Medical Center. Thorn died at 10:15 a.m., January 3, 1995, while being treated for the trauma he sustained.
INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 1:10 a.m. on January 2, 1995, that a serious accident had occurred. Mine Safety and Health Administration personnel began to arrive at the mine at 2:30 a.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to insure the safety of the miners until the accident investigation could be completed.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted an investigation with the assistance of the mine management personnel, the miners, and representatives of the miners.
All parties were briefed by mine personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A discussion was held with the three miners involved in loading the 400-foot roll of belt at the 6 Right longwall belt conveyor when the accident occurred. Representatives from all parties traveled to the accident scene, where an examination was conducted. Photographs, sketches, and relevant measurements were taken at the accident site.
Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the mine operator's training room on January 3, 1995.
The physical portion of the investigation was completed on January 3, 1995, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.
Records indicated that training had been conducted in accordance with Part 48, Title 30 CFR.
Records and the examiner's date, time, and initials indicated that the required examinations were being conducted in the 6 Right longwall conveyor belt entry.
Loops were braided in the ends of the 1/2-inch wire rope. The braided loop connected to the roll of belt came loose when the chain fouled against an anchor pin installed in the mine floor.
According to Auxier, the loops were normally secured with clamps to prevent slippage. Auxier stated that one rope clamp had been installed on the braided loop that had been connected to the roll of belt. Clamps were not installed on the braided loop that had been connected to the locomotive. Two new rope clamps were found on the mine floor beside the belt drive. There was no physical evidence to indicate that a clamp or clamps had been installed on the rope to secure the end of the braided loops.
The 400-foot roll of 54-inch conveyor belt was being pulled with a Goodman 15-ton track locomotive. The track rails were dry.
The belt winder for the longwall conveyor, on previous panels, was normally installed adjacent to a crosscut. This allowed the rolls of belt to be pulled directly through the crosscut from the winder to the track. Due to the length of the 6 Right panel, a braking system was installed on the belt conveyor drive unit. The belt winder had to be positioned between the pillars which required the operator to pull the rolls of belt forward along the pillar before they could be pulled through the crosscut.
Thorn had assisted the belt crew on several occasions when they had removed and loaded rolls of belt conveyor at the accident site. According to Auxier, Farley and Stafford, the victim was aware of the hazards involved when the belt was pulled with steel rope and had always positioned himself in a manner where he would not be exposed to the wire rope during removing and loading belt conveyor operations.
Farley informed the victim that they (belt crew) were going to load belt from the longwall conveyor when he first arrived at the belt conveyor head drive.
Auxier, Farley, and Stafford did not see the victim enter the work area.
The accident and resultant fatality occurred because appropriate precautions were not taken to assure that persons did not enter an area where a known hazard existed. Also, appropriate precautions were not taken to ensure the work area was free of obstructions and that the equipment used was maintained in a safe operating condition.
A 314(b) Notice to Provide Safeguard No. 4186456 was issued, stating in part that a fatal accident occurred while transporting a 400-foot roll of conveyor belt. One end of a 1/2-inch wire rope was attached to the roll of conveyor belt, and the other end was attached to a 15-ton locomotive. The wire rope was under tension and pulled loose where the rope was connected to the roll of belt, thereby allowing the wire rope to strike and fatally injure a miner.
The notice to provide safeguard requires all areas, where tensioned pulling devices are being used to pull or load materials or supplies, to be blocked off or secured to prevent any persons from entering such areas. Only persons needed to perform the work are to be allowed in the areas and they are to be in a safe protected area while the tensioned pulling devices are in use. Communications will be established to ensure that all employees in the affected areas are aware of the work being performed.
A 104(a) Citation No. 4624774 was issued stating in part that the ends of the Flemis Eye-Splice made in a 1/2-inch wire rope were not properly maintained with clamps or equivalent devices to prevent the splice from failing when placed under tension, a violation of Section 75.1725(a), Title 30 CFR.
Respectfully submitted by:
William A. Blevins
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Michael J. Lawless
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