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Western District
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

Accident Investigation Report
Surface Crushed Stone

Fatal Powered Haulage Accident

Weathers Crushing, Incorporated
Weathers Portable Plant
Central Point, Jackson County, Oregon
ID No. 35-02969

April 30, 1998


Collin R. Galloway
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector


David J. Brabank
Mine Safety and Health Specialist

Originating Office:
Western District Office
Mine Safety and Health Administration
2060 Peabody Road Suite 610
Vacaville, CA 95687

James M. Salois
District Manager


Richard Lee Nelson, crusher operator, age 40, was fatally injured at about 9:45 a.m. on April 30, 1998, when he was struck in the face by a hammer head while attempting to free a hang-up in the jaw crusher. The victim had been employed as a crusher operator at this mine for two and one-half hours. His previous mining experience was not known. Nelson had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.

MSHA was notified at 1:10 p.m. on the day of the accident by a telephone call from Darwin Weathers, president. An investigation was started the same day.

The Weathers Portable plant, a portable crusher, owned and operated by Weathers Crushing, Inc., was located at a pit referred to as the "Brick Pile Quarry," near Central Point, Jackson County, Oregon. The principal operating official was Darwin Weathers, president. The crusher was normally operated one, eight-hour shift a day, five days a week. Three employees worked at the operation.

Basalt and limestone were extracted by drilling and blasting in a pit referred to as the "Watergulch Quarry," located approximately one-half mile from the crusher. The crusher had been at this location about one week. Broken material was hauled to the plant and fed into the primary crusher with a front-end loader. Oversized rock was saved for rip-rap and the crushed product was stockpiled for use by the U. S. Forest Service as road base material.

The last regular inspection of this operation was completed on June 18, 1997. Another inspection was conducted in conjunction with this investigation.


The equipment involved in the accident was a 20- by 36-inch Universal jaw crusher, fed by a Simplicity pan-type feeder. The crusher was powered by a Detroit V6-71 diesel engine with a torque converter and manually-operated clutch. The feeder, crusher, and a discharge conveyor were mounted as a unit on a fifth-wheel trailer.

Access to the crusher operator's platform, which was located 54 inches above the crusher unit, was by fixed ladder. The platform was not enclosed, but was provided with a cover to protect the operator from rain. The start/stop controls for the pan feeder and cone crusher feed belt were located on the platform.

A 12-pound sledgehammer with a 21-inch wooden handle was used to break rocks which were too large for the crusher. The sledgehammer head was imbedded in a pile of dirt 37� feet from the crusher, indicating that it was ejected from the crusher with great force. The hammer handle went through the crusher.


On the day of the accident, Richard Nelson (victim) reported for work at 7:00 a.m. This was Nelson's first day on the job and Darwin Weathers, president, showed him the crusher start-up and shut-down procedures and how to operate the pan feeder and cone crusher feed belt.

John Berkey, plant operator, also spent some time with Nelson at the beginning of the shift, showing him how to feed rocks into the crusher. It became plugged several times and Berkey helped Nelson clear the crusher, demonstrating how to break the rocks with the sledgehammer. Then Berkey returned to the cone crusher where he had been picking wood from the feeder belt. Weathers was operating the front-end loader.

At about 9:45 a.m., Berkey saw Nelson's hard hat fly into the air, along with the hammer head. His view was obscured by a large heater on the crusher work deck, so he ran to check on Nelson. Berkey found Nelson with his feet and lower legs on some large rocks in the crusher opening and his chin resting on a piece of angle iron attached to the feeder above the crusher. Nelson was unconscious and bleeding heavily from a wound on the right side of his face where he had been hit by the hammer head. Nelson was not breathing, so Berkey began artificial respiration. Shortly thereafter, Weathers arrived at the crusher and assisted Berkey in treating Nelson.

Weathers then ran to his pickup and used a two-way radio to call for medical assistance. A helicopter arrived at 10:20 a.m. and two ambulances arrived a short time later. Emergency medical personnel determined that Nelson's condition was not stable enough for helicopter transport so he was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. He died en route to the hospital.


The accident was caused by failure to shut off and block the jaw crusher before attempting to dislodge rocks by breaking them with the sledgehammer. The root cause was failure to have safe work procedures for clearing hang-ups in the crusher. Failure to indoctrinate the victim in safety rules and safe work procedures was a contributing factor.


Order No. 4374120 was issued on April 30, 1998 under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to insure the safety of persons at this operation until the affected area and equipment could be returned to normal operations as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary.

This order was terminated on May 2, 1998, after it was determined that the mine could safely resume normal operation.

Citation No. 4314307 was issued on May 1, 1998 under the provisions of Section 104 (d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.14105:

Order No. 4135308 was issued on May 1, 1998 under the provisions of Section 104 (d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR 56.18006:

A fatal accident occurred at this mine on April 30, 1998, when the crusher operator attempted to dislodge rocks which would not go through the crusher. The crusher operator was using a 12-pound sledgehammer to dislodge the rocks and was struck in the face when the head of the hammer was forcibly ejected from the crusher. The crusher had not been shut off and blocked against hazardous motion.

The crusher operator had been on the job for about 2� hours and had not been indoctrinated in safety rules and safe work procedures. This is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory safety standard.

Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Fatal Alert Bulletin Icon FAB98M19