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Southeastern District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


I.D. 40-00864
Savage Zinc, Incorporated
Gordonsville, Smith County, Tennessee

October 20, 1995


Larry R. Nichols
Supervisory Mine Inspector


Charles E. McDaniel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

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


Gerald D. Stenger, mechanical scaler operator, age 49, was fatally injured on October 20, 1995, between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., when he was struck by a slab of rock that fell from the back in the 08-24 stope. The victim had a total of 13 years mining experience, 7-1/2 months at this mine, with the last 5 months as mechanical scaler operator.

The MSHA Franklin, Tennessee, field office was notified of the accident by a telephone call from Charles E. Hays, safety supervisor, at 9:40 p.m. the same day. An investigation was started immediately.

The Elmwood-Gordonsville mine, an underground zinc mining operation, owned and operated by Savage Zinc, Incorporated, was located one mile east of State Highway 53, within the city limits of Gordonsville, Smith County, Tennessee. The senior operating official was R. C. Dendler, vice president-mines. The mine normally operated two, 8-hour shifts a day, 5 days a week. A total of 210 people was employed, with 135 assigned to work underground.

The mine was developed by a random room-and-pillar method of mining with seven vertical shafts and one decline adit. Broken ore was transported by haulage equipment to a crusher and skip loading facility where the material was hoisted to the surface through a three-compartment shaft to storage bins for further processing.

The last regular inspection of this operation was conducted August 28-31, 1995. Employees received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48. The victim received 40 hours new miner training that was completed on March 2, 1995. He also completed task training on April 1, 1995.


The material was mined by driving drifts into the ore bodies. The drifts served as travelways and were widened in areas where the ore was of sufficient grade. The widened travelways were designated as stopes. When a sufficient amount of ore was feasible to mine in the roof of the stopes, another pass was drilled and designated as a backstope. Drifts were normally 16 feet wide by 11 feet high. Stopes were 30 to 40 feet wide and 15 to 18 feet in height. Roof bolting was selective, depending upon needs.

The accident occurred in the 08-24 stope which was 46 feet wide and 19 feet high and had a support pillar in the center of the face. The stope was roof bolted to within 15 feet of the face with 5 foot split set bolts on 5 foot centers. An examination of the area during the investigation indicated that the rock fell from the back and was approximately 8 feet long by 5 feet wide and 6 inches thick. The stope was in a limestone formation consisting of coarse dolomite with shale partings. The heading had been mucked out up to the face on October 19, 1995.

The scaling machine was a Getman Mechanical Scaler, Model S-324, equipped with a Deutz 82 hp engine. The machine had a 20 foot boom with a 10 foot hydraulically-activated extension cylinder that allowed the boom to reach a distance of approximately 30 feet. A tooth was attached to the end of the boom by a 5 inch long by 5/8 inch diameter pin. The boom could be rotated 90 degrees either side of center. The operator's compartment was equipped with overhead protection that had been certified as roll-over protective structure/falling object protective structure.


On the day of the accident, Gerald D. Stenger, reported for work at 5:00 p.m., his regular starting time. Jimmy Law, fill-in shift boss, instructed Stenger to scale loose material from the back, face and ribs in the 08-24 stope in preparation for drilling. Stenger proceeded underground, obtained the scaling rig and went to the shop to have repairs done on the rig. After leaving the shop, Stenger took the scaler to the 08-24 stope and began scaling loose ground. When Law checked on Stenger at approximately 6:30 p.m., Stenger was in the operator's compartment at the controls of the scaler.

At approximately 8:00 p.m., Law went to check on Stenger again. Upon arriving at the 08-24 stope, Law noted that the stope had been partially scaled. The scaling rig, with cab intact, was running at almost full throttle, which was the scaling position, but Stenger was not at the controls. Law began looking for Stenger and found him lying under the end of the boom beneath a large slab of rock.

Law checked for a pulse but could detect none. He left the stope, telephoned the hoist operator and instructed him to call for an ambulance. Law and two other employees returned to the 08-24 stope and removed the rock and scaler boom from Stenger and placed him on a back board. He was then transported to the surface via the incline adit where the Smith County Coroner pronounced the victim dead at the scene due to massive head injuries. Because a hammer and screwdriver were found near the victim, it is believed that he left the protective canopy of the scaler and walked under the unsupported back to make repairs on the scaling tooth retaining pin.


The primary cause of the accident was the failure to withdraw equipment from under unsupported back before leaving the protective operator's compartment of the scaler.


Citation No. 3873827 was issued on October 25, 1995, under provisions of Section 104(a) of the mine act for violation of Standard 57.3200:

On October 20, 1995, a Getman Mechanical Scaler Operator, who had been assigned to scale the 08-24 stope was fatally injured when a ground fall occurred. The victim for some unknown reason left the protected operators control cab and walked to the end of the machines boom. After leaving the operators cab he was exposed to an area of roof which had not been scaled or supported. While in this area, a ground fall occurred from the back striking the victim causing massive head injuries.

This citation was terminated on October 27, 1995. All scaler operators and anyone who might use the mechanical scaler were instructed on proper procedures.

Respectfully submitted by:

/s/ Larry R. Nichols
Supervisory Mine Inspector

/s/ Charles E. McDaniel
Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Approved by:

Martin Rosta
District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB95M39]