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UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION

District 4


REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(UNDERGROUND COAL MINE

FATAL POWERED-HAULAGE ACCIDENT

Meadow River No. 1 Mine (I.D. No. 46-03467)
Meadow River Coal Company
Lookout, Fayette County, West Virginia

April 23, 1997

by

Jerry E. Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Norman D. Elswick
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector (Electrical)


Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Earnest C. Teaster, Jr., District Manager

Release Date: July 14, 1997

BACKGROUND



The Meadow River No. 1 mine of Meadow River Coal Company is located near Lookout, Fayette County, West Virginia. The mine is developed into the Sewell coalbed from the surface by three drift openings, three shafts, and a slope. The Sewell coalbed averages 39 inches in height. The mine began production on August 16, 1988. Employment is provided for 129 persons on 3 production shifts. The mine produces an average of 2,900 tons of clean coal daily from 3 continuous-mining sections. Coal is transported from the working sections to the surface via belt conveyors. The immediate roof is comprised of shale and sandstone and is primarily supported with 48-inch resin bolts. Supplemental supports are posts, cribs, and combination bolts. Ventilation is induced into the mine by a Joy 10-foot blowing fan which produces 275,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The mine liberates about 130,000 cubic feet of methane in a 24-hour period. Personnel and supplies are transported by a mine track and trolley wire system. Retreat type mining (pillaring) is being conducted on the 1st Right section (006-0 MMU) where the accident occurred. Meadow River Coal Company is a subsidiary of Pittston Coal Company. The principal officers of Meadow River Coal Company are James Lively, Superintendent; Teddy Sharp, Mine Foreman; and Ken Perdue, Safety Manager. The principal officers of Pittston Coal Company are Karl K. Kindig, President; James I. Campbell, Executive Vice President of Operations; Austin F. Reed, Secretary; and Benita K. Bare, Assistant Treasurer.

The last Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) complete Safety and Health Inspection was completed on January 18, 1997. A Safety and Health Inspection was ongoing at the time of the accident.

STORY OF EVENT



The day-shift 1st Right section crew attended a safety meeting and entered the mine at 7:40 a.m. on April 23, 1997. The 1st Right crew was supervised by Carlos Ward, section foreman. The crew arrived on the section around 8:00 a.m. The midnight crew mined coal on this section the previous shift.

Ward examined the pillar line in all seven entries while the equipment operators went to their assigned duties. James Ramsey, continuous-miner operator, started mining coal from a pillar lift in the No. 5 entry face shortly after 8:00 a.m. He was assisted on the continuous miner by Dennis Brown whose normal duties included operating the roof-bolting machine. All three shuttle-car operators began hauling coal from the No. 5 entry. Harley Harris and Dewey Stickler, shuttle-car operators, were hauling coal down the No. 4 entry and dumping straight into the section Stamler feeder. The shuttle-car operators were having difficulty getting rock to crush in the coal feeder. They used a remote reset control switch to restart the coal feeder several times. The remote reset control switch power cable was hung on insulators on roof bolt plates installed against the mine roof and extended across the side dumping area.

Around 8:30 a.m., the cable to the remote reset switch was accidentally severed as Taylor was dumping a loaded shuttle car of coal. Taylor removed the damaged cable from the side dump area and placed it beside the coal feeder. The two power cable conductors had been severed next to a splice, and both of the bare power conductors were exposed. The power cable remained energized with power connected to the coal feeder electrical power box. The shuttle cars continued hauling coal as mining in the pillar lift was near completion.

Harris told Ward that the face crew would soon need half headers to set timbers. Samuel Haynes, scoop operator, brought some hydraulic oil to the section dumping point. Ward instructed Haynes and James Skaggs to get half headers for the continuous-miner crew. Haynes and Skaggs took the track-mounted man trip to get half headers that were stored alongside the 1st Right section belt haulage system.

Roscoe Adkins, section electrician, told Ward that the coal feeder was operating hotter than normal, and the reset switch power cable needed repaired. Adkins also informed Ward that the coal feeder water sprays needed changed out or cleaned. Ward told Adkins that he could work on the coal feeder when the continuous-miner crew completed the mining cycle in the No. 5 face. He informed Adkins that they would timber while he performed maintenance on the coal feeder. The pillar lift that had been started at the beginning of the shift was completed at 8:35 a.m., and timbers were in the process of being set.

Harris parked his shuttle car in front of the coal feeder, with the motors still running, and started putting hydraulic oil in his shuttle car with the pump motor running. He observed the coal feeder and observed Adkins beside the coal feeder getting the required tools to perform maintenance on the coal feeder and power cable.

Ward sent Stickler to tell Adkins to begin repairs on the coal feeder. Taylor observed Adkins walking in the confines of the cargo space of the coal feeder. Taylor then drove his shuttle car from the dump to the No. 5 entry face and began to help set timbers.

Around 8:45 a.m. as Stickler was approaching the section coal feeder to tell Adkins he could make repairs to the coal feeder, he observed Adkins already performing work on the coal feeder near the pick breakers inside the confines of the feeder. Stickler continued walking toward the coal feeder, and when he was alongside the shuttle car that Harris was pumping oil into, he observed the coal feeder start up. Stickler responded immediately by running to the off side of the coal feeder and disengaging the circuit breaker switch handle. Harris looked up from his shuttle car and observed a mine cap light turning in the pick breakers of the coal feeder throat.

Harris went to the mine telephone near the coal feeder and called outside for help and also informed Ward that an accident had occurred. Brown was with Ward, Ramsey, and Taylor setting timbers. Brown ran to the section belt tailpiece and used the belt stoppage switch to deenergize the belt haulage system. Brown found the victim inside the pick breakers and checked for a pulse, but did not find one.

Ward ran to the section power center and tripped the circuit breaker, and locked and tagged out the cat head at 9:15 a.m.

Keith Cook, day-shift foreman, and Bobby Naylor, motorman, came to the section to assist the section crew with removing the victim from the confines of the pick breakers. The victim was wrapped in blankets and transported by the track-mounted trolley man-trip bus to the surface around 9:50 a.m. Jan-Care Ambulance Service was waiting and transported the victim to Tyree Funeral Home, where the victim was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Newell.

INVESTIGATION OF THE ACCIDENT



The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 9:00 a.m. on April 23, 1997, that a fatal accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the mine at 9:40 a.m. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners.

MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training jointly conducted an investigation with the assistance of mine management personnel, the miners, and representatives of the miners.

All parties were briefed by mine personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. A preliminary discussion was held with 10 miners concerning the powered-haulage accident. Representatives of all parties traveled to the accident scene, where a thorough examination was conducted. Photographs, video, and relevant measurements were taken and sketches were made of the accident scene. Interviews of individuals known to have direct knowledge of the facts surrounding the accident were conducted at the Nuttall Fire Department training room on April 24, 1997, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

There was little loose coal accumulation inside the coal cargo space. According to witnesses interviewed, there were piles of coal on both sides of the Stamler coal feeder.

During testing conducted on the feeder electrical control circuit, it was revealed that when the 120-volt bare power wires of the remote reset switch were joined together, the coal feeder and pick breakers in the throat of the feeder would activate. These power wires do have a ground wire and short-circuit protection, which were tested and were working.

During the testing of the electrical systems of the Stamler coal feeder, all panic switches and restart buttons were functioning properly.

The electrical remote control switch had been severed by the off-side shuttle car when the boom was raised to dump a load of coal. The power cable had exposed copper wires with approximately three-quarters of an inch on each power conductor exposed. According to the shuttle-car operator, he moved the power cable, to the remote control switch, out of the path of the shuttle car so that contact would not be made by the shuttle car. The remote control power cable was placed alongside the off side of the coal feeder on a pile of coal.

The physical portion of the investigation was completed on April 25, 1997, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.

DISCUSSION



Training

Records indicated that all required training had been conducted in accordance with Part 48, Title 30 CFR. Annual refresher training had been conducted at this mine on August 3, 1996. Newly employed miner training was given on March 3, 1990, electrical retraining during December 1996, and task training on March 16, 1997.

Examinations

Records indicated that the required electrical, preshift, on-shift, and daily examinations were being conducted in accordance with Part 75, Title 30 CFR.

Physical Factors
  1. The equipment involved with the accident was a Stamler coal feeder, Serial No. 12207, which operated at 575-volt a.c. three-phase power and had a 120-volt a.c. single-phase control circuit.

  2. The Stamler coal feeder was started by the following methods:

    1. By using the remote reset control switch located approximately 25 feet in front of the feeder.

    2. By traveling to the off side of the feeder and pushing the reset switch on the feeder controller to engage the power source to the coal feeder.


  3. The shuttle cars dumping coal straight into the feeder cargo space utilized the electrical power remote control switch located approximately 25 feet in front of the coal feeder. The off-side shuttle-car operator, dumping onto the off side of the coal feeder, would have to crawl to the off side of the coal feeder to push the electrical panel button controls to reenergize the electrical system manually.

  4. During interviews, it was revealed that the shuttle car Taylor was operating severed the remote control power cable while backing onto the side of the coal feeder at the dump area. The boom located on the back of the shuttle car pulled the electrical power conductors apart.

  5. When the remote control reset switch power cable was severed, Taylor placed it beside the coal feeder in a pile of coal, with the 120-volt power conductors being exposed.

  6. The control circuit for the feeder had been rewired in a rebuild shop.

  7. The coal feeder was located in the No. 4 entry at survey station No. 6086. The mining height near the feeder at the accident scene was 62 inches. The entry width over the feeder at the accident scene was approximately 24 feet.

  8. According to Stickler and Taylor, the victim knew the power conductors were damaged.

  9. According to Stickler, the circuit breaker switch handle was not in a downward position to indicate the electrical circuit of the coal feeder was deenergized.

  10. The water sprays, located overhead of the pick breakers in the throat confines of the feeder, were tested during the investigation. Four of the five sprays did not function properly.

  11. It was revealed during interviews of witnesses that the coal feeder hydraulic system was overheating at a temperature of 150°F due to running rock from the mine roof strata. This overheating has no effect on the machine's electrical system and would not result in a machine shutdown or restart.

  12. The accident occurred around 8:45 a.m. while the victim was performing maintenance on the coal feeder.

  13. The victim had 32 years total mining experience, with 20 years mining experience at this mine. The victim had been a certified mine foreman since 1976 and had approximately 12 years experience as an electrician at this mine.

CONCLUSION



The accident and resultant fatality occurred when the victim traveled into the cargo area of the Stamler coal feeder on the 1st Right Section (006-0) to perform maintenance work (on water sprays and remote control reset cable) without assuring the power supply was deenergized. The coal feeder inadvertently started, resulting in the victim being fatally injured by the pick breaker.

A contributory cause was that the feeder remote control reset cable, that had been hung across the intersection, was severed by a shuttle car. This resulted in the two 120-volt power wires becoming bare, exposed, and remaining energized. The energized portion of the remote cable was placed out of the shuttle-car roadway but near the feeder and on mounds of loose spillage coal. It is the consensus of the investigation team that after the victim stopped the feeder by activating a spring-loaded stop switch, he went into the feeder to work on the water sprays. While he was performing this work, the power conductors of the remote control reset cable contacted each other which caused the feeder to start.

CONTRIBUTING VIOLATIONS



A 104(a) Citation, Section 75.517, Title 30 CFR, was issued, stating in part that the remote reset control cable for the Stamler coal feeder, Serial No. 12207, was not insulated adequately where the power cable had been severed. Between the micro-switch and the coal feeder controller, about three-quarters of an inch of bare copper conductor was exposed on both power leads of the cable. The power cable was lying on loose coal piled beside the coal feeder, approximately 10 feet inby the controller.

A 104(a) Citation, Section 75.1725(c), Title 30 CFR, was issued, stating in part that the 575-volt a.c. power to the Stamler coal feeder, Serial No. 12207, being utilized on the 1st Right section, was not deenergized while work was being performed on the water sprays located above the pick-breaker rotary bits.

A 104(a) Citation, Section 75.512, Title 30 CFR, was issued, stating in part that the Stamler coal feeder, Serial No. 12207, located on the 1st Right (006-0 MMU) working section, was not removed from service when the No. 16 A.W.G. remote reset power cable was found to have been severed between the micro-switch and the feeder controller.



Respectfully submitted by:

Jerry E. Sumpter
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector

Norman D. Elswick
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector(Electrical)


Approved by:

Richard J. Kline
Assistant District Manager

Earnest C. Teaster, Jr.
District Manager


Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB97C09