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Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health


Surface Nonmetal Mill

Fatal Machinery Accident
January 21, 2000

Philip Environmental Services (XSC)
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Arkansas Operations Mill
Alcoa World Alumina, LLC.
Bauxite, Saline County, Arkansas
I.D. No. 03-00257

Accident Investigators
Willard J. Graham
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Robert Capps
Health and Safety Inspector

D.Michael Campbell
Civil Engineer

Originating Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
South Central District
1100 Commerce Street, Room 4-C-50
Dallas, Texas 75242-0499

Doyle D. Fink
District Manager


David A. Gauthier, contractor shift superintendent, age 56, was fatally injured when he was struck by a dust collector that fell approximately 80 feet from a building undergoing demolition. Cables were rigged to the upper decking and attached to an excavator on the ground. During the pull, the decking hung on a vertical support column dislodging the dust collector which fell. The accident occurred because the drop zone had not been cleared of personnel.

Gauthier had approximately 30 years experience in the demolition business, 2 years and 12 weeks with Philip Environmental Services. Company records indicate he had received training in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.


Arkansas Operations Mill, a surface alumina mill, owned and operated by Alcoa World Alumina, LLC, was located in Bauxite, Saline County, Arkansas. The principle operating official was Paul Jarrell, operations manager. The mill was normally operated three 8-hour shifts, seven days a week. Total employment was 444 persons. The Arkansas Operations Mill produced variations of four products including hydrate chemicals, calcined alumina, calcium aluminate cement and tubular. Hydrate chemicals are manufactured via a pressure digestion process. The Activated Alumina division along with the Refinery and Clarification areas were shutdown in 1993.

The victim was employed by Philip Environmental Services. Philip Environmental Services, an independent contractor was hired to demolish an abandoned portion of the plant and began work on site during August, 1999. The principal operating official was George Hunter, special representative, decommissioning services. Contractor employees normally worked one 10-hour shift, 5 or 6 days per week. Total employment was 14 persons.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on December 12, 1998. A regular inspection was conducted immediately following this investigation.


On the day of the accident, David Gauthier, victim reported for work at 6:30 a.m., his normal starting time. The contractor scheduled the majority of the equipment operators to be off for an extended weekend keeping only five employees on site. Gauthier and Christopher Croniser, shift superintendent, filled in as equipment operators. Croniser, along with three burner operators Brian Hvizdzak, Ramone Lopez and Ernesto Rosales were assigned the task of completing the demolition of building 70. Gauthier worked at building 35 where he operated a metal shear removing steel and debris. At about 3:45p.m., Gauthier rejoined the crew working at building 70. The roof section of the 7th floor western bay had already been removed, leaving the 7th floor decking, which included a dust collector to be pulled next.

The cut section was rigged with two cable chokers attached to a single cable connected to an excavator positioned on the south side of the building. Gauthier mounted the excavator and began the pull. The hinge cut failed on the initial pull with the cut section moving horizontally approximately 3 feet and dropping approximately 12 feet. The crossbeam supporting the dust collector had lodged against the section of column B9 causing the section to hang. Gauthier dismounted the excavator and Croniser then replaced him at the controls.

Gauthier walked a short distance to the side of the excavator and Croniser waited for him to give the thumbs up signal at which time he turned his attention to the decking. When Croniser started pulling, the dust collector fell from the decking and slid down the rigging cable toward the excavator. Prior to reaching the excavator, the dust collector fell from the cable, struck the ground and rolled on top of Gauthier.

Russell Oulch, Alcoa security officer, was in a truck east of building 70 observing the demolition. He was proceeding to the site when he observed the dust collector fall. When Oulch arrived and was informed Gauthier was under the dust collector, he immediately phoned for help. A loader was used to raise the dust collector and free Gauthier. First aid was administered until Gauthier was air lifted to a local hospital. The victim was pronounced dead at 5:20 p.m.


MSHA was notified of the accident at 5:12 p.m., by a telephone call from Britt Scheer, Alcoa, to Michael A. Davis, assistant district manager. An investigation was started the next day. MSHA's accident investigation team traveled to the mine and made a physical inspection of the accident site, interviewed a number of persons, and reviewed the work procedures performed at the time of the accident. Training records were also reviewed. An order was issued pursuant to Section 103 (k) of the Mine Act, to ensure the safety of miners. The representative of miners for the mining company participated in the investigation, however the contractor employees did not request, or have, representation during the investigation.


1. The accident occurred at building 70 which was in the process of being demolished by Philip Environmental Services. This building was constructed in 1961 and was part of the activated alumina plant. The original structure was approximately 144 feet long and 68 feet wide. The height of the structure varied from a maximum of four stories (57 feet) at the west end to a maximum of seven stories (103 feet) at the east end. The main steel support columns consisted of steel wide flange sections. The structure included corrugated metal siding, lateral reinforcement in the form of angle and structural tee cross bracing, steel plate flooring, steel grate flooring, metal stairs, and alumina process equipment.

2. Demolition was being performed using a method known as Acut and pull@ where sections were systematically removed in manageable sized pieces, determined here to be approximately 20 by 24 by 12 feet high. A standard hand held oxygen/acetylene cutting torch was utilized to pre-cut the steel members.

3. After determining the direction that the section would be pulled for removal, the vertical structural steel supports were partially cut on the side of the pull creating a hinge point and then all other structural members were completely cut through. Wire rope was then attached in one of two procedures, either at the horizontal member on the same side of the section as the pull, or over the top of the section to the opposite- side horizontal member. The latter method assists the pivoting of the section about the hinge point. The section is rotated about the hinge cuts on the pull side columns until it topples over shearing the hinge point. Once the pulled section of the building was on the ground a shear reduced the steel to manageable pieces which could be hauled from the plant site.

4. Prior to the accident, the top section of the building 70 west bay had been removed. The section being removed at the time of the accident was approximately 80 feet above the ground. It had been completely cut at the A9 column close to the base of the 6th floor. The upper beam on the northern side of the section was completely cut at its column A8 connection. The upper beam on the southern side of the section was completely cut at its column B8 connection. The B9 column was partially cut an estimated 22 inches above the 6th floor to form a hinge to help rotate the section from the top of the structure. All lateral bracing was cut close to the floor of the 6th floor. (see ADetail of West Bay@ drawing in the appendix)

5. A Norblo 120-AS Series 39 dust-collector bin was mounted on the 7th floor. Approximately 8 feet of the dust bin protruded into the ceiling space of the 6th floor, and approximately 10 feet of the dust bin was in the 7th floor space. The overall dimensions of the dust bin were approximately 9 feet wide by 8 feet long by 10 feet tall. The discharge cone and supply duct work brought the total height to 22 feet. The bin was partially full of dust at the time of the accident and the total weight was estimated to be 5000 pounds. The mounting bolts had been cut off prior to attempting to remove the section.

6. Two 1-inch diameter cable chokers, 18 feet long each, were attached to the horizontal upper beam on the southern side of the section being removed. These were connected to a single 1-3 inch diameter cable that was connected to the boom of a L350 Caterpillar excavator. The cable had been run down to the excavator, looped through the clevis on the boom of the excavator, and run back up to the connection point. Both ends of the cable were connected to the chokers with a single clevis. The working length of the cable was 52 feet, 8 inches.

7. The excavator was a Caterpillar L-350 powered by a direct injection diesel engine rated at 286 horsepower. The standard excavator bucket and stick had been removed and a 70R La Bounty Hydraulic Shear had been installed. The shear operated directly from the excavator=s hydraulic system at a maximum of 5000 PSI. The shear opened to 36 inches and was capable of cutting :-inch thick steel. After the accident, the excavator had been moved from its original location. Inspection of the site and witness statements indicated that the excavator was positioned approximately 80 feet south of the building when the attempt to remove the section was made.

8. When the dust bin was dislodged, it slid down a portion of the pull cable. After the bin hit the ground it continued to roll and pinned the victim as he was trying to get out of its way. The dust bin ended up approximately 120 feet from the building. According to witness statements, at the time the bin began to fall, the victim had been positioned adjacent to a power line support pole, approximately 80 feet from the building.


The cause of the accident was management=s failure to clear the material drop area of personnel. The root cause was the attempt to remove the decking and the unsecured dust bin with a single pull. This allowed the dust bin to separate from the decking and fall in an uncontrolled fashion.


Alcoa World Alumina., LLC.

Order No. 7891410 was issued on January 21, 2000, under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
An accident resulting in fatal injuries occurred during the demolition of Building 70 at the Alcoa World Alumina, LLC, milling site. This order is issued to assure the safety of persons at this area of the operation until the affected areas can be returned to normal operations as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary. The operator shall obtain approval from an authorized representative for all actions to recover persons, equipment, and/or restore operations in the affected area.
This order was terminated on February 7, 2000. Conditions that contributed to the accident have been corrected and normal operations can resume.

Philip Environmental Services

Citation No. 7894001 was issued on April 04, 2000, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.16010:
On January 21, 2000 an employee was fatally injured when he was crushed by a dust collector that fell from the 7th floor of a building that was being demolished. The victim was standing several feet away from a track mounted backhoe that was attached to a wire rope being used to pull down the 7th floor. The drop area was not first cleared of personnel prior to dropping the floor.
This citation was terminated on May 4, 2000. All employees involved in demolition have been retrained in safe work practices regarding building demolition.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB00M02


Persons Participating in the Investigation

Alcoa World Alumina, L.L.C.
Paul Jarrell .......... Operations Manager
Sidney DeGarmo .......... EHS Manager
Britt Scheer .......... EHS Specialist
James Beckius .......... Construction Manager
Robert Slack .......... Alcoa WW Safety Director
James Barrett .......... Construction Manager
Terry Whitley .......... EHS Specialist
Lee Garrett .......... Miners Rep. USWA Local 4880
Philips Environmental Services
Alex Thomas .......... Senior Vice President
George Hunter .......... Special Representative Decommissioning Services
Jimmy Stewart .......... Site Safety Supervisor
Terry Jennings .......... Vice President Safety and Health
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Willard J. Graham .......... Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Robert Capps .......... Mine Safety and Health Inspector
D. Michael Campbell .......... Mechanical Engineer

Persons Interviewed

Philips Environmental Services
George Hunter .......... Special Representative Decommissioning Services
Christopher Croniser .......... Shift Superintendent
Brian Hvizdzak .......... Burner
Ramone Lopez .......... Burner
Ernesto Rosales .......... Burner
Alcoa World Alumina, L.L.C.
Russell Oulch .......... Security Officer
Robert Gilbert .......... Building 60 Operator
Greg Feimster .......... Electrician