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UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION

District 7

REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(Underground Coal Mine)

FATAL POWERED HAULAGE ACCIDENT

RB Coal Co., Inc.
RB # 4 Mine
I.D. No. 15-08293
Pathfork, Harlan County, Kentucky

March 20, 1996

by

Peggy Langley
Dennis Cotton
Federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspectors

Dean Skorski
Stephen Dubina
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center


Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
HC 66 Box 1762, Barbourville, Kentucky 40906
Joseph W. PAVLOVICH, District Manager

OVERVIEW

On March 20, 1996 at approximately 5:30 p.m., a fatal powered- haulage accident occurred at the RB Coal Co., Inc., RB # 4 Mine, I.D. No. 15-08293. The accident occurred in the 38th crosscut inby the 002-0 MMU Section head drive, in the number five panel. The mine is located near Pathfork in Harlan County, Kentucky.

The victim, David D. Ledford, was operating a Model 482 S & S Scoop and was engaged in cleaning loose coal and soft mine floor from under and around the front bridge section of the Long Airdox Continuous Haulage System when his head came in contact with the metal frame of the elevated bridge.

Rescue efforts began by fellow employees and company personnel and were joined by State Department of Mines and Minerals and continued until the victim was recovered. Ledford was transported to the surface area of the mine where he was pronounced dead by Harlan County Coroner, Philip Bianchi, at approximately 8:35 p.m.

An examination of the scoop and its components by MSHA Investigators and Technical Support personnel revealed an electrical capacitor lying loose in the logic box of the scoop which could have resulted in a malfunction of the running protection circuitry. The possibility of a fault existed which could have resulted in an inadvertent high tram condition that would not have been detected by the faulty logic unit. However, it could not be conclusively shown that the loose capacitor existed prior to the accident. No other conclusive evidence was found, nor were any other contributory conditions found.

GENERAL INFORMATION AND BACKGROUND



The RB # 4 Mine, of the RB Coal Co., Inc., is located in Pathfork, Harlan County, Kentucky. The mine originally opened in January 1990 into the Upper Harlan Seam which ranges in height from 36 to 50 inches. The mine is entered by five drift openings and is ventilated by an exhaust fan. A battery-powered track- haulage system is utilized for the transportation of miners and haulage of supplies.

The mine employs 41 persons on one coal production shift and one maintenance shift per day five to six days per week. The mine produces approximately 2,000 tons of raw coal per day. Coal is extracted from its deposits by continuous mining machines and transported from two working sections (001-0 and 002-0) by a conveyor belt served by a mobile bridge system and is finally transported to the surface by a series of belt conveyors. Coal trucks, owned and operated by B & S Trucking, are then used to transport the coal to the RB Coal Co., Inc.'s Preparation Plant located one-half mile from the mine site and shipped by rail to various utility companies. The mineral is leased from Black Star Land Company.

The Principal Officers of RB Coal Co., Inc. are:
Duane Bennett...................President
George Bennett.................Vice-President
Richard Scruggs................Secretary/Treasurer


The Principal Officers of the mine are:
George Bennett................General Manager
1913 Lake Street,
Corbin, Kentucky 40701

Earl Hensley.....................Superintendent
Pathfork, Kentucky

David Partin.....................Safety Director/Engineer
Middlesboro, Kentucky 40965



An MSHA regular Safety and Health Inspection (AAA) was begun on February 12, 1996 and was ongoing at the time of the accident.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT



On Wednesday, March 20, 1996, the evening shift maintenance crew consisting of eight employees, entered the mine at approximately 2:30 p.m., by rail mantrip and traveled to the end of the track. The crew then completed their travel to the working section using battery-powered three-wheel buggies. The 002-0 Section maintenance crew consisted of five employees under the supervision of Harold Lewis Blakely, Foreman. The evening shift maintenance activities began at approximately 2:50 p.m. and continued without incident until 5:30 p.m., when the fatal powered-haulage accident occurred.

David D. Ledford, scoop operator and victim, had started his shift at approximately 2:50 p.m. The 002-0 Section was in the process of ´┐Żbelting back´┐Ż, which is the process in retreat mining of moving the belt outby along with the rest of the section equipment in order to allow room for the next line of pillars to be mined. Ledford, Blakely, and Michael Johnson, Roof Bolting Machine Operator, had been removing the top and bottom belt structure. The crew began to tram the mobile bridge system outby along the lo-lo belt structure for a distance of one crosscut. The crew was hampered from doing so because of loose coal and soft mine floor. Running over the loose coal and soft mine floor resulted in the front bridge becoming lodged in the mine roof. The mobile bridge system was then trammed forward toward the pillar line to allow room for the scoop to clean the loose material. The front bridge system was then elevated to its maximum height. Blakely instructed Ledford to clean up the loose coal and soft mine floor from under and around the front bridge section of the Long Airdox Continuous Haulage System. Ledford brought the Model 482 S & S Scoop he was operating into the area on the offside of the haulage system and proceeded to clean up the loose material. Ledford removed a portion of the material away, dumped it, and then returned to continue the job. Ledford scooped another bucket of loose material, then backed out of the area. Blakely proceeded to the front bridge carrier away from the work area. Ledford then maneuvered the scoop in order to clean up more of the loose material when his head contacted the metal frame of the elevated bridge.

Rescue efforts began immediately by section personnel and the accident was reported to the surface. Rescue efforts continued to recover Ledford by section personnel, company personnel, and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals. Ledford was recovered at approximately 8:00 p.m. and transported to the mine surface where he was pronounced dead at 8:35 p.m. by the Harlan County Coroner, Philip Bianchi.

THE INVESTIGATION



Gary Harris, Special Investigator of MSHA's Barbourville District Office, who lives nearby, was notified of the accident by Earl Hensley, Superintendent of RB Coal Co., Inc., at approximately 6:20 p.m. Harris telephoned Edward Morgan, District Staff Assistant, who immediately notified Irvin T. Hooker, Supervisory Coal Mine Inspector. The investigation team was then assembled. The Investigation began immediately with Jim W. Langley, Supervisory Coal Mine Inspector and Peggy Langley, Coal Mine Inspector, arriving at the mine at 9:00 p.m. Assistance was requested of MSHA's Technical Support Division which performed the engineering and technical evaluation of the scoop and its electrical components.

PHYSICAL FACTORS INVOLVED IN THE ACCIDENT

  1. The coal seam being mined is the Upper Harlan Seam.

  2. The mining height in the area of the accident was 48 to 50 inches.

  3. The 002-0 working section was engaged in retreat mining and was in the process of "belting back".

  4. The 002-0 working section is located approximately 10,000 feet inby the surface drift portal.

  5. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident.

  6. The Scoop involved in the accident was a Model 482 S & S Scoop, S/N 482-1918, Approval No. 1G-3056-1. The scoop was normally used in clean up activities such as cleaning up loose coal and soft mine bottom and hauling belt structure.

  7. Cleaning loose coal from under the mobile bridge section using a scoop, however, was not a common work practice according to statements obtained during interviews.

  8. The 482 S & S Scoop involved in the accident was not provided with a canopy because of low mining heights on the roadway leading to the charging station located some 30 crosscuts outby this location and adjacent to the end of the track.

  9. The scoop controls were found in the "on position". The pump motor and the tram selector were in the "forward position". The scoop was running with the bucket lowered. The bucket was raised during recovery operations in an effort to lift the bridge section.

  10. After the accident, an examination of the 482 S & S Scoop revealed that the headlights, service brakes, and emergency deenergization device were all in working order.

  11. A functional test was conducted to determine if the scoop was safe to operate. The scoop was repeatedly trammed to test the tramming circuits. Initial tests indicated that the scoop was working properly. The logic box, used to detect faults on solid-state battery-powered equipment, was removed from the 482 S & S Scoop and tested. Initial tests indicated a malfunction in the running circuit protection. The logic box was then forwarded to MSHA Technical Support for additional testing.

  12. According to statements obtained during interviews, the only equipment in operation at the time of the accident was the 482 S & S Scoop being operated by the victim.

  13. Information obtained during the investigation, revealed that the victim was an experienced scoop operator. The victim's training records indicated that all required training was up-to-date.

  14. The victim had a total of seven years of mining experience but had less than one month experience at this particular mine.

  15. Evidence at the accident scene indicated that the victim had been in the process of loading a small amount of spilled coal and loose bottom material.

  16. The mine floor in the area of the accident was dry with a slight dip in the inby direction.

CONCLUSION



The fatal accident occurred when the 482 S & S Scoop being operated by the victim traveled under the elevated bridge conveyor pinning the victim between the frame of the scoop and the bridge conveyor. A co-worker stated that he heard the scoop surge into high tram immediately before impact.

An examination of the scoop and its components by MSHA Investigators and Technical Support personnel revealed an electrical capacitor lying loose in the logic box of the scoop which could have resulted in a malfunction of the running protection circuitry. The possibility of a fault existed which could have resulted in an inadvertent high tram condition that would not have been detected by the faulty logic unit. However, it could not be conclusively shown that the loose capacitor existed prior to the accident. No other conclusive evidence was found, nor were any other contributory conditions found.

ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS

  1. A 103-K Order, No. 4244736, was issued to assure the health and safety of the miners until an investigation and examination deemed the area safe to work.




Respectfully submitted,

Peggy Langley
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector, Accident Investigator

Dennis Cotton
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector, Accident Investigator

Dean Skorski
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center

Stephen Dubina
Pittsburgh Safety and Health Technology Center


Approved by:

John M. Pyles
Assistant District Manager

Joseph W. Pavlovich
District Manager


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Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB96C10