MSHA issues reports for year’s first four fatalities

On February 23, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported that on Jan. 14, a 44-year-old contract laborer with 13 years of total experience received fatal injuries when he fell 27 feet to a concrete surface. 

At the time of the accident, the contractor was on a belt conveyor in a coal preparation plant and was working to replace a belt conveyor roller.

This was the fourth fatality reported in 2022, and the first classified as “Slip or Fall of Person.” 

MSHA recommends the following best practices to avoid this type of accident:

  • Establish and follow safety policies and procedures, when working at heights.
  • Train miners to use fall protection when a fall hazard exists.
  • Ensure fall protection is available and properly maintained.
  • Provide identifiable and secure anchor points to attach lanyards and lifelines.
  • Provide mobile or stationary platforms – or scaffolding – where there is a risk of falling.

Also on Feb. 23, MSHA issued a report on the second and third mining-related deaths in U.S. mining, confirming that on Jan. 7, a 35-year-old continuous mining machine (CMM) operator was fatally injured when he was pinned between the remote controlled CMM and the coal rib; and on Jan. 11, a 32-year-old miner died while driving on a mine road when a tree fell from a highwall onto the cab of his pickup truck.

Both accidents occurred at coal operations.

MSHA recommends the following best practices to avoid fatalities classified as Machinery.

  • Operate equipment from a safe location. Stay out of “Red Zone” areas including pinch points, the CMM turning radius, and areas close to the ribs.
  • Maintain proximity detection systems (PDS) in the approved operating condition.
  • Perform the manufacturer’s recommended static and dynamic tests to assure the PDS is functioning properly. Verify that the shutdown zones are at sufficient distances to stop the CMM before contacting a miner.
  • Wear miner wearable components in accordance with PDS manufacturer’s recommendations so warning lights and sounds can be seen and heard.
  • Develop and implement procedures for tramming, repositioning, cable handling and moving remote controlled CMMs safely.
  • Train miners on the function of PDS.

MSHA recommends the following best practices to avoid fatalities classified as Falling, Rolling, or Sliding Rock or Material of Any Kind. 

  • Examine highwalls frequently and from as many perspectives as possible (bottom, sides, and top/crest). Look for signs of instability such as cracks, sloughing, loose ground, and for fall of material hazards such as large trees and rocks.
  • Train all miners to recognize hazardous highwall conditions.
  • Conduct additional examinations as conditions warrant, especially during periods of changing weather conditions.
  • Clear loose or potentially hazardous material from near the edge of highwalls and slopes, especially when persons will work or travel below.
  • Develop and follow a ground control plan that addresses all potential hazards.

Earlier in February, the agency discussed the first mining fatality of 2022, which occurred Jan. 7 in Pennsylvania. A 49-year-old front-end loader operator with 15 years of mining experience died at Arcosa’s Fayette County operation when a large rock fell from the mine roof, crushing the cab of the front-end loader. 

When the accident occurred, the victim was loading material from a recently blasted shot. MSHA has classified the incident as Fall of Roof or Back.

MSHA recommends the following best practices to avoid this type of accident:

  • Scale the back and ribs before performing work in an area.
  • Conduct examinations of the back, face, and ribs where miners work and travel.
  • Install suitable ground support where conditions warrant.
  • Use geologic hazard mapping to identify adverse conditions and be aware of changing ground conditions.
  • Train miners to identify workplace hazards and take action to correct them.

At press time, there had been 12 total mining fatalities at U.S. mines. Reports are still pending on the fifth through tenth deaths.

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