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Southeastern District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


Mine I.D. No. 08-01035-VJV
Foster Carter Industrial Services, Incorporated
Independent Aggregates Mine
Independent Aggregates
Inglis, Citrus County, Florida

May 31, 1995

B. A. Underwood
Mine Safety and Health Inspector


Kenneth Pruitt
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 212
Birmingham, Alabama 35209
Martin Rosta, District Manager


William Dennis Merritt, maintenance welder, age 35, was fatally injured at about 4:00 p.m. on May 31, 1995, when he fell approximately 40 feet from a tripper conveyor to the ground. The victim had a total of 15 years experience as a welder, but had only worked 2 days with the contracting company at this mine.

The MSHA Southeastern District office was notified of the accident at 4:50 p.m. on May 31, 1995, by a telephone call from Karl Kemm, safety director for Independent Aggregates. An investigation was started the following day.

The Independent Aggregates Mine, a crushed limestone operation, owned and operated by Independent Aggregates, was located on U.S. Highway 19 North, Inglis, Citrus County, Florida. The principal operating official was Thomas Bronson, operations manager. The pit and plant was normally operated two, 8-10 hour shifts, 5 days a week. A total of 53 persons was employed.

The victim was employed by Foster Carter Industrial Services, Incorporated, an independent contractor located in Brooksville, Florida. The contractor performed maintenance and construction activities at this and other mining operations in the area on a frequent basis. The principal operating official was Morgan Foster Carter, president. A total of 6 persons was employed, 4 at this job site.

The limestone deposit was mined by drilling and blasting. Material was excavated from under water by dragline and stockpiled adjacent to the pit for drying. The material was then loaded by front-end loader into trucks and hauled to a primary crusher where it was crushed, prior to being sized, screened and stockpiled. The finished product was primarily used in the construction industry.

The last regular inspection of this operation was conducted December 21, 1994 and a regular inspection was conducted in conjunction with this investigation. MSHA is prohibited by budget restrictions from enforcing the training requirements of 30 CFR, Part 48, Subpart B at this crushed limestone operation.


The accident occurred at the tripper conveyor which was 280 feet long. The first 100 feet of the conveyor was inclined 14 degrees. The remaining 180 feet was level and approximately 40 feet above ground level. A 24 inch wide walkway of expanded metal was provided along the east side of the conveyor. The handrails were constructed of 1-1/4 inch diameter pipe. The top rail and midrail were located 42 inches and 24 inches respectively, above the walkway.

The tripper section of the conveyor was 8-1/2 feet above the walkway. There was a material discharge chute on each side of the tripper section. A used, 30 inch wide belt was being installed.

A pair of "C" clamp type vise grips was found on the ground beside the victim's body. The vise grips were used by the employee to grip the belt and pull it into position to complete the installation.


On the day of the accident, William Dennis Merritt (victim) reported to work at 7:00 am., his regular starting time. Merritt, Jamie Sowers, Johnny Hinds and Terry Carter, all employees of Foster Carter Industrial Services, Incorporated, were to install a new belt on a tripper conveyor on the northeast side of the plant.

Prior to installing the belt they discussed the procedures they would use. The belt was to be pulled through the tripper assembly using a nylon rope attached to a front-end loader which would be operated by Sowers. Merritt was to stand on the walkway and signal if the belt became misaligned while passing through the tripper assembly. Hinds was to observe the rope going over the head pulley. Carter was standing on the ground, on the west side of the conveyor, relaying signals to the loader operator.

The men proceeded to their locations to begin installing the belt. Merritt went up the walkway which was approximately 40 feet above ground level.

Work progressed normally until about 4:00 p.m. when Merritt yelled to Carter to stop pulling the belt. Carter signaled Sowers to stop the loader and then waited for further instructions from Merritt.

None of the co-workers could see Merritt from their locations and were unaware of his specific activities at the time.

Apparently the belt was not tracking straight and Merritt climbed onto the handrail to reach the belt to pull it toward him using "C" clamp type vise grips. When the vise grips slipped off the belt his momentum caused him to lose his balance and fall.

James Pike, maintenance foreman, and Chad Sims, utilityman, of Independent Aggregates, were standing in front of the maintenance shop, approximately 450 feet from the conveyor. They saw the victim standing on the handrail and about 30 seconds later they saw him falling to the ground.

Pike immediately notified Morgan Foster Carter in the maintenance shop and then went to the office and instructed the secretary to call 911.

When Johnny Hinds and Terry Carter saw Merritt on the ground they immediately rushed to him. They detected a pulse and began first aid. Several officials and other employees arrived at the scene and approximately 10 minutes later the emergency unit arrived. Merritt was then transported by ambulance to Seven River Hospital in Crystal River, Florida, where he was pronounced dead by the attending physician.


The accident was directly caused by the performance of work from an unsafe location. There was danger of falling but no safety belt and line was used.


Citation No. 4302296 was issued on June 7, 1995, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of Standard 56.15005:

A maintenance welder was fatally injured at 4:00 p.m., on May 31, 1995, when he fell approximately 40 feet to the ground while helping to install belting on a conveyor. A walkway with outside handrails was provided along the conveyor. The conveyor was over 8 feet above the walkway where the employee fell. Dirt on the handrail indicated that the employee stood on the handrail to reach the conveyor belt and fell. Safety belts and lines were available, but were not being worn.

Respectively submitted by:

B. A. Underwood
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Kenneth Pruitt
Mine Safety and Health Inspector Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M20]