DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Accident Investigation Report
(Underground Coal Mine)
Fatal Powered Haulage Accident
Mine #1 (ID: 15-17781)
R & R Coal Co.
Evarts, Harlan County, Kentucky
June 06, 1998
Dennis J. Cotton
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
Coal Mine Safety and Health
H.C. 66, Box 1762, Barbourville, Kentucky 40906
Joseph W. Pavlovich, District Manager
At approximately 8:45 a.m., on Saturday, June 06, 1998 a fatal powered haulage accident occurred at the R & R Coal Co.'s Mine #1. Jeffery R. Bowman, a 35 year old section foreman with eighteen years of total mining experience, nine as a mine foreman and with fifteen months at this mine, suffered fatal injures while operating a Model 482 Long-Airdox scoop at the location of the 001 working section loading point. The victim and three miners were in the process of installing a conveyor belt drive. Bowman was using the bucket of the scoop to apply down-pressure on the top of the skid frame for the conveyor belt drive. This would raise the head roller on the opposite end of the drive to allow blocking material to be installed. The scoop bucket slipped off the left side of the skid frame, which resulted in the right (operator's) side of the scoop being thrust upward forcefully, resulting in fatal injuries to the foreman. The scoop was not required to be equipped with a canopy due to the coal seam height being less than 42 inches.
The accident occurred due to mine management's failure to establish and follow a safe work procedure for the installation of conveyor belt drives.
Mine #1 is located in Evarts, Harlan County, Kentucky and is operated by the R & R Coal Co., which is reportedly a contract operator for Manalapan Mining Company, Inc. R & R Coal Company began mining operations at Mine No. 1 in September, 1996. The mine is opened by four (4) drift openings into the Wallins coal seam which averages 42 inches in thickness. Coal is mined using a Model 1028 Jeffrey continuous mining machine and is hauled to the section loading point using two Model 21SC Joy shuttle cars.
The roof is supported using a Model 3510-40 FMC dual head roof bolter to install 42 inch minimum length, fully grouted, roof bolts. The current mine works consist of one active working section, main entries, panels, and a gob area created by pillar extraction. The mine employs 13 persons underground and one person on the surface. The mine operates one shift per day five days per week utilizing the room and pillar method.
The single continuous-mining machine section produces an average of 450 tons of clean coal daily. Coal is discharged onto a series of belt conveyors and transported to a stockpile area located on the surface. The raw coal is transported by trucks from the surface to a preparation plant operated by Manalapan Mining Company, Inc. The land is owned in fee by Manalapan Land Company.
The principal officers of the operation are as follows:
Ralph Napier .......... Superintendent
Richard D. Cohelia .......... Safety Director
The last Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regular safety and health inspection (AAA) was completed on May 8, 1998.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
Jeff Bowman, section foreman, and his crew of three miners began work at 6:10 a.m. on June 06, 1998 by traveling to the working section (MMU 001). The scheduled work activity for the section crew was to install a conveyor belt head drive at the location of the section coal loading point. The area for the head drive installation was first cleaned by the regular scoop operator, Walter Wynn. Bowman, a trained and experienced scoop operator, took over operation of the scoop to move the head drive into the correct location for final installation.
After the head drive unit was pushed into place the unit would routinely be set up on crib blocks to complete the final adjustments. The skid frame of the head drive was raised to allow crib blocks to be installed under the rear of the frame.
Bowman then used the bucket of the scoop to apply down-pressure on the top of the skid frame to raise the head roller on the opposite end to allow blocking material to be installed. The mining height in the location where the scoop was being operated was 41 inches with 15 inches of clearance between the top of the scoop and the mine roof.
While applying down-pressure at the rear of the skid frame, the scoop bucket slipped off the left side of the skid frame. The loss of contact on the left side of the scoop bucket resulted in the right (operator's) side of the scoop being thrust upward forcefully and the victim's head struck the mine roof.
The scoop came to rest on the mine floor and Bowman was found slumped over in the operator's compartment. Roy Middleton, a maintenance person, and one of the three miners present, checked for vital signs and stated that he detected a heartbeat during his examination of Bowman. Attempts were also made by the co-workers to communicate with the victim, without success.
According to statements obtained during interviews there was no one present on the surface, outside of the mine.
Tim Wynn, another of the three miners at the scene, traveled out of the mine via personnel carrier, a distance of approximately 2900 feet, to call for assistance. Upon his arrival on the surface at approximately 9:00 a.m., Wynn reportedly discovered that the telephone located in the mine office did not work properly due to the touch-pad buttons sticking. He subsequently left the mine office and traveled two miles down the mine access road to the Manalapan Mining Company, Inc. office where he telephoned for an ambulance.
During this period, the other two (2) co-workers, Walter Wynn and Roy Middleton attempted to revive Bowman and to keep his airway clear, without success.
The victim was then placed on a stretcher for transportation out of the mine via personnel carrier. Upon arrival on the surface, at approximately 9:15 a.m., the victim was examined by Mountain Emergency Medical Service personnel. No signs of cardiac activity were found. Philip Bianchi, Harlan County Coroner, was called to the scene and pronounced the victim dead at 10:59 a.m.
The cause of death, according to the Coroner's Report, was attributed to, "blunt force (impact) injures of the head" and "forced impact of head into fixed object (Roof of Coal Mines)".
At approximately 10:10 a.m. on June 6, 1998, Daniel L. Johnson, Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector of MSHA's Harlan, Kentucky Field Office, was notified by Richard D. Cohelia, Safety Director, that a serious accident had occurred. The MSHA accident investigation team was assembled and arrived at the mine at 11:57 a.m. A 103 (k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until an investigation could be conducted. MSHA and the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management and the miners.
PHYSICAL FACTORS INVOLVED
The following physical factors were determined to be relevant to the occurrence of the accident:
The accident occurred underground on the MMU 001
working section at the R & R Coal Co., Mine #1, ID No.
- The victim was operating a Model 482 Long-Airdox Scoop
(Serial No. 482-1775U) when the accident occurred.
- The mining height at the accident scene was 41 inches.
Because the mining height in this mine fluctuates below
42 inches, a cab or canopy is not required on the
- The back rest in the operator's compartment for the
Long-Airdox Scoop had been cut down approximately 6 inches
and tack-welded to the inside portion of the operator's
compartment. Company personnel indicated that the scoop
was purchased rebuilt approximately 10 years ago. The scoop
was purchased with the canopy removed and the operator's
compartment modified. MSHA's Approval and Certification
Center, indicated that this modification lowered the back
portion of the compartment to approximately 12 � inches.
According to the manufacturer's sketch received from Patrick
Barrett of Long-Airdox, the actual height of this portion of
the machine should have been 18 � inches. All other
measurements obtained on the scoop were consistent with the
information received from the manufacturer.
- The top of the skid frame for the conveyor belt drive was
located approximately 15 inches above the mine floor.
- Philip Bianchi, Harlan County Coroner, reported the
following information: external lacerations were
observed on both ears of the victim which was
apparently caused by the hard hat, no other lacerations
were observed; an X-ray performed on the victim's head
indicated no external skull fracture and the cause of
death was due to blunt force (impact) injuries to the
head and not crushing type injuries.
- At the time of the accident, the victim was reportedly
laying on his back, operating the scoop, looking toward
the front of the machine as down pressure was applied
to raise the belt drive. According to Michael Snyder
and Bill Beasley, Engineers, of MSHA's Approval and
Certification Center, if crushing type injuries to the
head were present, consideration could be given to the
scoop modification being a contributing factor.
However, the observations and information obtained by
the Coroner indicate that no crushing injuries were
present. Therefore, modification of the operator's
compartment of the scoop was determined not to be a
contributing factor to the accident.
- At the time of the accident the scoop was being used
for a purpose it was not specifically designed, namely
positioning the head drive by applying up or down
pressure to the skid frame of the drive unit. The
investigation also revealed that the mine operator had
no safe work procedure established or used under which
to install conveyor belt drive units.
- During the course of the interviews with the miners, it was determined that it was a common practice at this mine to use the scoop to lift and lower the conveyor belt head drive unit during its installation, this being the method consistently utilized by Bowman for his entire tenure at this mine. Although scoops are used for a variety of different jobs and applications in coal mines, this activity is considered to be non-typical to normal scoop operation. The mine operator's report of investigation stated, in part, that they, "will no longer use scoops to install head drives, but will use jacks and come-alongs to position them".
On August 28, 1997, MSHA issued Program Information Bulletin (PIB) No. P97-22 titled "Safety Modification for Low-Profile Battery-Powered Scoops". The PIB alerted MSHA enforcement personnel, equipment manufacturers, and mine operators to an operator and equipment manufacturers devised solution to combat mine roof contact injuries suffered by a scoop operator in a low-seam mine.
In order to prevent such injuries, mine operators suggested safety modifications to low-profile scoops that are not required to be fitted with a cab or canopy. One suggested modification was to weld heavy-duty metal standards near the operator's compartment on the scoop to prevent the operator from contacting the mine roof. Another was to enlarge the operators compartment allowing the operator to better fit within the compartment.
The mine operator did not install the suggested modifications nor did MSHA require them in the form of a safeguard due to the fluctuation in mining heights in locations where the scoop was routinely used. Had they been installed, in some instances, the standards would have only been approximately six inches or less in height which would afford no or only minimal protection. Also no injuries were reported at the mine which would have dictated a need for the modifications(s).
The accident occurred due to the mine operator's failure to establish work procedures and the improper use of equipment to install head drives, not due to the effects of the absent canopy or installed modifications.
The scoop was thrust upward on the right (operator's) side as a result of the loss of contact on the left side of the scoop bucket with the skid frame for the conveyor belt drive while applying down-pressure with the scoop bucket.
The accident occurred as a result of mine management's failure to establish and follow a safe work procedure for the installation of conveyor belt drives.
The accident occurred due to the operator's failure to: examine an area where permanent roof support was scheduled to be removed; control and or support the mine roof in order to protect persons from the hazards related to the fall of mine roof material; remove permanent roof support by a remote means; and conduct an adequate preshift examination of the accident area.
A 103 (k) Order, No. 7457038, was issued to ensure the safety of the miners until an investigation could be conducted.
There were no enforcement actions issued which were determined to be contributory to the accident.
A 104(a) non-contributory citation was issued during the course of the investigation under a separate event for a violation of 30 C.F.R., Section 75.1713-2 (a). Statements obtained during interviews and a physical inspection indicated that the mine telephone located in the mine office was not functioning nor maintained as required by the standard.
Also, a 104(a) non-contributory citation was issued during the course of the investigation under a separate event for a violation of 30 C.F.R., Section 75.1600-1. Statements obtained during interviews revealed that no one was present outside of the mine, despite the fan being operated and miners working underground.
Dennis J. Cotton
John M. Pyles
Assistant District Manager for Enforcement
CMS&H, District 7
Joseph W. Pavlovich
CMS&H, District 7
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