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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine
(Sand and Gravel)

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Cherry Valley Pit
Heritage Resources, Inc.
Caledonia, Kent County, Michigan
(I.D. No. 20-03003)

May 2, 1997


Fred H. Tisdale
Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)
Paul A. Blome
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse
515 W. First Street, #228
Duluth, MN 55802-1302

Jake H. DeHerrera
Acting District Manager


Samuel W. Oaks, plant manager, age 27, was fatally injured at about 12:25 p.m. on May 2, 1997. Oaks' right arm became entangled between a return idler roller and the conveyor belt. Oaks had two years total mining experience, all at this operation. The last year he served as plant manager. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified at 2:30 p.m. on the day of the accident by a telephone call from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An investigation was started the same date.

The Cherry Valley Pit, an open pit sand and gravel operation, owned and operated by Heritage Resources, Inc., was located near Caledonia, Kent County, Michigan. The principal operating officials were James Velting, chairman; Kim Velting, president; and Kirk Velting, vice president. The plant was normally operated one shift, ten hours a day, five days a week. A total of five persons was employed.

Pit material was loaded into company trucks by a front-end loader for transport to the plant where it was crushed, sized, washed, and stockpiled for sale to local customers.

Prior to the accident, MSHA was not aware of this mine. A regular inspection was conducted immediately after the investigation.


The conveyor belt involved in the accident was supported by a channel iron frame and was 22 feet long and 48 inches wide. The belt was located under a double deck screen and was used to discharge sand. The conveyor was purchased used from Central Michigan Tool and Equipment Company in April 1996. The conveyor was powered by a 480-volt, three phase, 30 horsepower motor in conjunction with a Dodge speed reducer.

The conveyor was installed on an incline of about 10 degrees with the tail pulley about 6 feet above the ground and the head pulley was about 10 feet in height. The conveyor was equipped with two, 5 inch diameter return idler rollers located underneath the belt about 40 inches from both the head and tail pulleys. The victim was caught in the return idler roller located nearest the tail pulley, which was 71 inches above the ground. The area under the belt was used as a travelway by plant employees. Spilled material was found on the ground below the idler roller. The belt was not equipped with any type of mechanical scraper or cleaner, therefore, material had accumulated on the return idler roller.

The electrical switches for operation of this conveyor belt were located about 8 feet from where the victim was found.

Weather conditions at the time of the accident were cool with intermittent showers.


On the day of the accident, Samuel W. Oaks, plant manager, reported for work at his regular starting time of 6:30 a.m. At 7:00 a.m. the rest of the crew arrived at the plant to commence work.

Work progressed normally until about 12:00 p.m. when a rock became lodged in the screen feed conveyor head pulley at the top of the 8- by 20-foot screen. Richard Brant, clay puller, notified Oaks, who then shut the plant down, and both men proceeded to the top of the screen to clear the obstruction. After the rock was removed, Oaks instructed Brant to return to his work station located on the south end of the plant, and that he (Oaks) would restart the plant.

At that time Jim Welton, truck driver, arrived at the plant feed hopper with a load of pit material. As he backed his truck to the feed hopper, he looked in his right-hand mirror and saw Oaks signal him to dump the load. Welton started raising the truck bed and noticed the screen feed conveyor surging. He stopped raising the bed and immediately got out of the truck to see what was wrong. As he walked to the bottom of the hopper area, he observed Oaks with his right arm and shoulder entangled between the return roller and belt of the discharge conveyor. He ran over to Oaks, shouted his name, but got no response. He then continued to the south end of the plant and informed Brant and Mark VanBlaricum, contractor tire repairman, that Oaks was entangled in a conveyor belt. Welton then shut down the plant and proceeded to the main office where he called for help. On the way he informed William Kingsbury, loader operator, of the accident.

When VanBlaricum and Kingsbury reached Oaks they could not detect breathing or a pulse. Kingsbury attempted to loosen Oaks' clothing, which was caught up around his throat. VanBlaricum got an oxygen/acetylene torch and cut the roller bracket as Brant used a pry bar to apply pressure to the roller to free Oaks. The victim was subsequently freed and placed on the ground. No vital signs were detected. Rescue personnel arrived shortly thereafter and Oaks was pronounced dead at the scene by the coroner. The cause of death was traumatic asphyxiation.


The cause of the accident was the victim coming in contact with the unguarded return idler roller located over a regularly traveled walkway. There were no witnesses to the accident and it cannot be determined why the victim contacted the pinch point.


Order No. 4564793
Issued on May 2, 1997 at 0830 hours under the provisions of Section 103(K) of the Mine Act:

A fatal accident has occurred at this mine. This order prohibits operation of the plant or any work near the sand discharge conveyor belt pending an investigation by MSHA to ensure that all hazards have been corrected.

This order was terminated on May 7, 1997 at 1235 hours:

An investigation was conducted and all hazards were addressed.

Citation No. 4316701
Issued on May 12, 1997, under the provisions of Section 104(d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.14107(a):

A fatal accident occurred at this mine on May 2, 1997, when a foreman became entangled in a conveyor belt and was asphyxiated. The victim walked underneath the screen discharge conveyor, which was operating, and contacted an unguarded rotating idler located about 71 inches above ground level. Management knew or had reason to know that mine employees traveled under this conveyor on a regular basis, yet failed to take corrective action. Such conduct constitutes more than ordinary negligence and is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.

/s/ Paul A. Blome
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

/s/ Fred H. Tisdale
Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)

Approved by: Jake H. DeHerrera, Acting District Manager

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon [FAB97M29]