DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
NORTH CENTRAL DISTRICT
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health
Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine
Fatal Machinery Accident
Miller's Blasting Service, Inc. (Contractor)
(I.D. No. EC0)
Wastone Quarry Co.
Wastone Materials Co.
Dixon, Lee County, Illinois
(I.D. No. 11-00230)
September 3, 1997
William T. Owen
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ronald E. Brendle
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse
515 W. First Street, #228
Duluth, MN 55802-1302
John K. Radomsky
Acting District Manager
Mark E. Owens, contract driller, age 32, was fatally injured at approximately 12:00 p.m. on September 3, 1997, when he fell from the edge of the quarry wall to the quarry floor approximately 90 feet below. Owens had nine years' mining experience as a contract driller and had drilled at this mine site many times over the past nine years. He was trained in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48 and had received annual refresher on March 4, 1997.
Connie Martin, secretary treasurer, Wastone Materials Co., notified the Peru, IL MSHA office of the accident at 2:15 p.m. on September 3, 1997. An accident investigation was started the same day.
Wastone Quarry Co., a single bench, open pit limestone quarry, owned and operated by Wastone Materials Co., was located approximately one mile west of Dixon, Lee County, Illinois. The principal operating official was Gerald Martin, president. The quarry and plant normally operated one shift per day, five days per week. A total of three persons normally worked at this mine.
Limestone was drilled, blasted, crushed, sized, and stockpiled for sale as construction aggregate. This quarry had been in operation under various ownership since the late 1940's and under present ownership since April 1997. The three employees at this mine were represented by Operating Engineers, Local 150.
Miller's Blasting Service, Inc., was contracted to perform drilling and blasting at this mine location for about 20 years. The shot pattern being drilled at the time of the accident was the sixth blasting contract conducted at the mine this year. The principal operating official was Ronald D. Miller, president. Employees of Miller's were represented by Laborers' Union, Local 727.
The last regular inspection at this mine was completed July 31, 1996.
The accident occurred at the top edge of the east quarry highwall, within the mines' 11 acre perimeter. The height of the wall was approximately 90 feet, encompassing multiform mud seam fissures throughout the cap rock strata.
Drilling had commenced on August 28, 1997, and twelve, 94 feet, 3 inch diameter holes had been drilled at the time of the accident. A thirteenth hole was in the process of being drilled approximately 5 feet from the highwall edge, 28 inches from a mud seam crack. It had been drilled to a depth of about 60 feet. The cracked and separated rock made footing adjacent to the drill controls uneven and insecure. Approximately 14 additional holes needed to be drilled to complete this shot pattern.
The drill involved in the accident was an Ingersoll Rand, Model ECM 350, Serial No. 7118, equipped with a mast which would accommodate drill steel 12 feet long. Controls for the drill operation were located on the left side of the mast. The boom was slightly extended, placing the controls approximately 2 feet ahead of the crawler tracks and centered between the tracks. Inspection of the controls revealed the following: Feed- slow up; Rotation- slow screw on; Blow- off; and Hammer- off.
The hammer feed chain was type Peer 100H which showed minimal wear. The single outside link that failed at the time of the accident was probably caused by a structural defect. A small vertical scratch was observed on the lower face side of the drill hammer.
The drill steel being used was type Mitsubishi, EH38M45. A 10 foot length with coupling weighed approximately 66 pounds. A 12 foot length with coupling weighed approximately 78 pounds. Drilling was accomplished with seven, 12 foot drill steels and one, 10 foot steel.
At the time of the accident five, 12 foot drill steels were in the thirteenth hole with a 10 foot and 12 foot steel found laying on the ground adjacent to the drill. Another section of drill steel was observed on the face of the highwall, about 35 feet from the top, in direct line with the drill and the location where the victim was found on the quarry floor. It was not safe to retrieve this steel due to its location.
The victim's safety belt (Brand III Iller, Style 123N-SN/A19022) was found lying against the brake pedal in the cab of the compressor truck which was located about 60 feet from the hole being drilled. Two safety lanyards were found on the drill. One lanyard was attached to the boom hoist cylinder and dirt present in its latches made it inoperable. The second lanyard was laying on the drill crawler controls and showed signs of recent use. Both lanyards were 10 feet long and were of the web strap-type with double locking attachments.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT
On the day of the accident, Mark E. Owens (victim) arrived at work at about 6:00 a.m., his normal starting time. He proceeded to the quarry drill area and was observed by several Wastone Quarry employees throughout the morning. At approximately 11:45 a.m., John J. Tomzak, contract truck driver, was driving down the quarry ramp of the pit to get a load of material when he observed the victim on his hands and knees on the quarry floor near the highwall. Tomzak had seen Owens drilling earlier that day and assumed at this time he had fallen to the quarry floor.
Upon reaching the bottom of the ramp, Tomzak immediately told Ronald Lindsey, loader operator, that there was a man down on his hands and knees by the highwall below the drill. At that time, Roger Bork, loader operator, Tomzak, and Lindsey immediately went to Owens. Upon their arrival, they found Owens conscious, stating he was having trouble breathing.
Bork immediately went to the scale house and called 911. The rescue ambulance arrived at the mine site 8 minutes after the call. Rescue personnel administered oxygen and transported Owens to the Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital. The coroner pronounced Owens dead at 1:15 p.m. from chest and abdominal injuries caused by the fall.
Based on the evidence and information obtained at the accident scene and interviews of persons at the mine, it was determined that Owens was in the process of adding a drill steel. The position of the drill controls would have placed him about 5 feet from the edge of the highwall. Changing the drill steel required the victim to balance the 78 pound steel upright, on top of the coupling of the last steel in the hole, using his left hand while operating the control levers with his right hand. During this process the feed chain broke, allowing the hammer to free-fall, possibly striking the steel held by the victim. When this happened, the victim may have attempted to catch the steel and lost his balance, falling over the highwall. Additionally, the footing adjacent to where the victim was working was uneven and cracked and may have made it difficult for him to keep his balance.
The direct cause of the accident was the failure to ensure the work area adjacent to the highwall and drill had secure and stable footing. The structural defect of the drill feed chain, causing it to break when adding a section of drill steel, contributed to the accident.
Contributing to the severity of the accident was the failure to wear a safety belt and line while conducting drilling operations near the edge of the highwall.
The following violations were issued to Wastone Materials Company:
Order No. 7816660
Issued on September 3, 1997 at 1515 hours under the provisions of 103(k):
Citation No. 4424287
Issued on October 30, 1997 at 0935 hours under the provisions of 104(a), Part/Section 56.18002a:
The following violations were issued to Miller's Blasting Service, Inc.:
Citation No. 4424288
Issued on October 30, 1997 at 1100 hours under the provisions of 104(a), Part/Section 56.15005:
Citation No. 4424289
Issued on October 30, 1997 at 1102 hours under the provisions of 104(a), Part/Section 56.7052b:
Citation No. 4424290
Issued on October 30, 1997 at 1103 hours under the provisions of 104(d)(1), Part/Section 56.7003:
/s/ William T. Owen
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
/s/ Ronald E. Brendle
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Approved by: John K. Radomsky, Acting District Manager
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin: