DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORT
UNDERGROUND COAL MINE
FATAL MACHINERY ACCIDENT
WHITE OAK MINE #2 (ID No. 42-01280)
WHITE OAK MINING & CONSTRUCTION CO., INC.
SCOFIELD, CARBON COUNTY, UTAH
MARCH 24, 1995
Acting Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
PO Box 25367 , DFC, Denver, CO 80225
John A. Kuzar, District Manager
The White Oak Mine #2 is an underground coal mine owned by White Oak Mining & Construction Co., Inc. (White Oak). It is located approximately four miles south of Scofield, Carbon County, Utah, and two miles south off State Road 96. The mine was opened by Valley Camp of Utah, Inc. in 1981. White Oak acquired the mine from Valley Camp in 1993.
The main portals were driven into the lower O'Connor coal seam in a westerly direction and consist of five drift openings. The mains were developed to the west with submains and panels driven to the south by the room and pillar method of mining.
The mine has two radio remote control continuous mining machine sections for development and retreat. Electric shuttle cars are used to haul material from the face to the conveyor belt system which transports material out of the mine. Diesel powered equipment is used for cleanup, hauling material, and transporting personnel. The mine employs 114 persons, 90 underground and 24 on the surface. Coal is produced two shifts per day with maintenance one shift per day. The mine rotates schedules every other week from five days to six days a week. The average coal production is 5,000 tons per day.
The last Mine Safety and Health Administration regular safety and health inspection was conducted from February 16 to March 9, 1995.
The principal officers at the mine are:
Mark Wayment ......... General Manager
Robert Fox ............... Shift Mine Manager
Shane Hansen ........... Safety Manager
Dennis Dodds ........... Maintenance Manager
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
Keith Smith, normally a Continuous Mining Machine Helper, was assigned as the section foreman for the 3rd Right section on the afternoon shift of March 24, 1995. Smith and a crew of eight entered the mine at approximately 3:00 p.m. They arrived on the 3rd Right section at approximately 3:30 p.m. and proceeded to their work assignments.
Hugo Luna, Shuttle Car Operator, told Smith of some bad spots on the shuttle car cable. Blue Samples, victim, with the help of Alvero Zarate, a Beltman who was assigned as a shuttle car operator, and Luna taped the bad spots on the cable. Samples, normally a Mechanic Trainee, was assigned as the continuous mining machine helper (miner helper). William Potter, Shift Maintenance Supervisor and Samples' supervisor, stated that Samples was assigned as miner helper to substitute for Smith, who was acting as the section foreman that shift. Samples had worked at the mine approximately three weeks prior to the accident and was assigned as the miner helper due to a shortage of miners on the 3rd Right afternoon shift crew. The shortage was due to absenteeism and mine rescue team training. Samples' experience as a miner helper consisted of four shifts, the four days preceding the accident. Samples, however, had not received adequate training for this task.
Martin Leon, Continuous Mining Machine Operator, who had worked the day shift, stayed over to operate the continuous mining machine for the afternoon shift. At the start of the shift, Smith told Leon to take a break at the "kitchen." Smith, using the remote control unit, proceeded to move the continuous mining machine down the No. 4 entry. During this move, he was located in front of the machine at the corner of the crosscut between the No. 3 and No. 4 entries. As he turned the machine into this crosscut, the boom hit the mine roof. He stopped the continuous mining machine, walked to the rear of the machine, and pulled down a piece of brattice that was hung across the entry. He exclaimed to Luna, who was with him, that the brattice didn't need to be there. During this time, Samples was in front of the machine watching the trailing cable.
Smith returned to the front of the continuous mining machine, positioned himself on the right side of the cutting head with his back toward the No. 4 entry, and backed the machine up a short distance. He then swung the tail-boom toward the right coal rib.
Luna attached a rope between the boom and the trailing cable to pull the cable as the machine moved toward the No. 5 entry. In his position, the lights of the continuous mining machine hindered Smith's vision when looking toward the tail-boom of the machine.
After Luna attached the rope, he went to the No. 3 entry to check the slack in the trailing cable. At this time, Smith resumed tramming the mining machine forward. Samples was located between the tail-boom and the rib and Zarate was in the No. 4 entry between Smith and Samples. Smith moved the machine to the left to avoid the coal pillar. As the machine swiveled, Smith heard the tail-boom hit the rib, but he continued to tram the machine forward. Luna, who was behind the machine in the No. 3 entry, also heard the boom hit the rib and looked and saw Samples fall. Zarate saw the boom hit Samples and waved his cap lamp at Smith and yelled for him to turn off the machine.
Smith stopped the machine and went to assist Samples. Brian Romney, Laborer, who had just arrived, went to the mine phone to call outside for help. Miles Frandsen, Section Mechanic, also arrived at the scene. He started first-aid treatment and placed Samples on a stretcher. Samples was then placed in the bed of a diesel Ford truck and transported to the surface. Luna, Zarate, and Potter accompanied Samples to the surface. Potter and Zarate administered first-aid and monitored Samples' vital signs. The ambulance from the adjacent Skyline Mine was brought to the mine and was waiting at the surface. Samples was transferred to the ambulance and transported to Scofield, UT, about 10 minutes away.
A "Life Flight" medical crew, which was waiting at Scofield, pronounced Samples dead.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration's Price, Utah subdistrict office was promptly notified of the accident and an investigation was started immediately. Following MSHA's investigation, the continuous mining machine was removed from the mine and taken to the Joy Technology Incorporated's (Joy) repair shop in Price, Utah for rebuild. Gary Utt, Claims Adjuster for the Workers Compensation Fund of Utah was present during disassembly of the machine. Ralph Keele, Subdistrict 2 Boardmember for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), was also present during this work. By letter dated September 11, 1995, Jim H. Stevenson, UMWA Safety Representative, advised MSHA of electrical problems with the remote control unit for the machine. MSHA contacted Joy Technology personnel on September 13 and an investigation of the matter was conducted by MSHA on September 26. Terrance D. Dinkel, Electrical Engineer for the Denver Safety and Health Technology Center, and James E. Kirk, Acting Subdistrict Manager, conducted this investigation. The findings are discussed in the Physical Factors section of this report.
- Two radio remote-controlled continuous mining machines were
located on the 3rd Right working section. Both machines
were manufactured by Joy Technologies, Inc. One was a Model
No. 12CM7-11BX and the other a 14CM8-10BX. The 12CM7-11BX
unit, Serial No. JM 4241, approval no. 2G-3334A-0, was
involved in the accident.
- The remote controls for the two continuous mining machines
operated on different frequencies. The investigation
revealed no mechanical deficiencies which affected the
operation of the continuous mining machine and the radio
- The continuous mining machine's position prior to, and at
the time of the accident, was recreated based on information
obtained during interviews and on the physical evidence at
the site (track impressions on the mine floor and markings
on the tail-boom of the continuous mining machine and on the
- Samples had three weeks of mining experience with four days
as a continuous mining machine helper. He received newly
employed inexperienced miner training, which was completed
on March 14.
- Keith Smith, Miner Helper and the substitute section foreman
at the time of the accident, received his fireboss
certification from the State of Utah in August 1994. As a
fireboss, he was qualified to make methane and oxygen tests
and to substitute as a section foreman. Smith operated the
continuous mining machine at the time of the accident.
Smith had two years experience as a continuous mining
machine helper and operator. Martin Leon, the operator
assigned to the machine for the afternoon shift, was away on
a break. He had worked the day shift and stayed over to
operate the continuous mining machine for the afternoon