DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health
Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine
Fatal Machinery Accident
Holly Quarry & Mill Santee Cement Company
Dorchester Dirt Pit & Co.
Holly Hill, Orangeburg County, South Carolina
Mine I.D. No. 38-00014-BGY
October 29, 1996
Harry L. Verdier
Supervisory Mine Inspector
Ronald J. Grabner
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 212
Birmingham, Alabama 35209
Chad Frantz, contractor excavator operator, age 24, was fatally injured at approximately 9:50 a.m., on October 29, 1996, when the excavator he was operating slipped off the narrow roadway into the settling pond. The victim had a total of 2 years, 3 months mining experience, all with this contracting company. He had received training in accordance with 30CFR, Part 48.
Bonnie Connelly, safety supervisor, Holnam, Inc., notified the MSHA Columbia, South Carolina, field office of the accident at 10:10 a.m. on October 29, 1996. An investigation was started the same day.
The Holly Quarry & Mill Santee Cement Company, a limestone quarry and cement producing operation, owned and operated by Holnam, Inc., was located along Highway 453 in Holly Hill, Orangeburg County, South Carolina. The principal operating official was William A. Patterson, plant manager. The quarry normally operated two, 8 hour shifts a day, 5 days a week, while the mill operated three, 8 hour shifts a day, 7 days a week. One hundred and sixty-six persons were employed at this operation.
The victim was employed by Dorchester Dirt Pit & Co., an independent contractor, located at 1949 Gardner Blvd., Holly Hill, Orangeburg County, South Carolina. The principal operating official was Nell Muckenfuss, president. Eight persons were employed by the contractor at this operation for the primary purpose of removing overburden, and conducting other various activities required by the mining company.
The limestone was ripped with bulldozers, transported to the primary crusher where it was crushed and then conveyed to the main plant where cement was produced. The finished product was stored in silos, and then moved by conveyor system to the shipping area for delivery by rail and truck.
The last regular inspection of this operation was completed August 15, 1996. Another regular inspection was conducted at the conclusion of this investigation.
PHYSICAL FACTORS INVOLVED
The settling pond where the accident occurred was 250 feet long, 150 feet wide at the discharge end, and 83 feet wide at the inlet end. The actual depth of the pond could not be determined. It was necessary to periodically remove the silt from the pond. In order to accomplish this, a roadway, approximately 140 feet long and 16 feet wide, was established about the middle of the pond and extended parallel to the pond's outer roadway towards the inlet end. This roadway was below the water's surface, but enabled the excavator and trucks to enter the area in order to remove the material. One side of the roadway opened to the settling pond, the other side had a 5 foot bank, which was the berm around the perimeter of the settling pond. The outer edge towards the pond was not provided with an adequate berm. When the pond was full, the roadway was under water and on the day of the accident, the roadway was covered in 6 to 12 inches of silt and water, making it impossible to be seen by the equipment operators. Truck drivers backed the trucks down the roadway by using the 5 foot bank as a guide in order to stay on the submerged roadway. The excavator was positioned close to the edge of the drop off in order to clear the bank with the rear counterweight when the machine was swung around.
The excavator involved in the accident was a track-mounted, 1987 Komatsu PC300LC3, powered by a 197 horsepower diesel engine. The overall length of the excavator was 35 feet, 4 inches and the width of the tracks was 11 feet, 3 inches. The overall working weight of the machine was 33.5 tons, with a maximum digging depth of 24 foot. The bucket capacity was 35.3 cubic feet. The excavator received extensive damage while being removed from the settling pond and could not be tested to check for any defects. Past inspection reports for the excavator were checked and did not show any mechanical or safety problems.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
On the day of the accident, Chad Frantz (victim) reported to work at 7:00 a.m. his normal starting time. He along with four co-workers were assigned the task of cleaning the settling pond by Rodney Burbage, plant supervisor. Normal practice for cleaning the settling pond was to drive the excavator onto the narrow submerged roadway and scoop the silt and sludge from the pond into the haul trucks that backed onto this roadway. Frantz operated the excavator, while Brock Byrd and Mike Dickson drove two of the haul trucks. Work continued without incident until about 9:50 a.m. By this time the excavator and trucks had cleaned the settling pond for approximately 124 feet along the roadway.
Byrd's truck was loaded and as he was driving away from the excavator he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw the victim turning the excavator to get another scoop of material. Dickson waited until Byrd cleared the roadway then began to back his truck onto the roadway. When he looked in his rear view mirror and did not see the excavator he stopped his truck, got out and ran back to where the excavator had been. The excavator was on its side in the settling pond with only about one foot of one track and part of the boom above water level. Dickson got back in his truck and drove to the top of the hill where Burbage was operating a front-end loader and informed him of the accident.
Burbage, Dickson and several employees went to the site of the accident. Since the excavator was close to the road, the men were able to climb onto the machine and attach chains and cables, then with the help of a bulldozer, raise it enough to break the windshield on the operator's cab and remove the victim. Frantz had been trapped in the excavator for about 50 minutes.
Apparently, after loading Byrd's truck, Frantz attempted to reposition the excavator. He swung the boom in the direction of travel, positioning the operator's cab over the settling pond. As he attempted to tram the excavator, it slipped off the roadway into the settling pond, trapping the victim.
After the victim was removed from the operator's cab, he was taken by ambulance to the Orangeburg Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead by the County Coroner. Death was attributed to asphyxiation.
The direct cause of the accident was the inability of the excavator operator to see the narrow roadway he was operating on because of the 6 to 12 inches of water and silt that covered the roadway. A contributing factor was the absence of a berm along the entire outside edge of the roadway.
Citation No. 3606218
Issued on November 13, 1996, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for a violation of 30 CFR 56.9313.
Citation No. 4529261
Issued on November 13, 1996 under the provisions of Section 104(d)(1) of the Mine Act for a violation of 30 CFR 56.9313.
Citation No. 4529262
Issued on November 13, 1996 under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for a violation of 30 CFR 56.9300.
/s/ H. L. Verdier
Supervisory Mine Inspector
/S/ R. J. Grabner
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Approved by: Martin Rosta, District Manager
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