MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health
Accident Investigation Report
Surface Nonmetal Mine
Fatal Machinery Accident
Portable Rock Production Company, Incorporated
Sears Road Pit
Eugene, Lane County, Oregon
ID No. 35-02761
Date of Injury: September 2, 1998
Date of Death: September 11, 1998
Collin R. Galloway
Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Western District Office
2060 Peabody Road, Suite 610
Vacaville, CA 95687
James M. Salois
Vernon T. Smith, bulldozer operator, age 67, was fatally injured at about 6:50 a.m. on September 2, 1998, when the bulldozer he was operating overturned. Smith had 40 years mining experience, the past 27 years as a bulldozer operator and crusher superintendent at this mine. He had retired in 1995, but had returned recently to work part-time. He had not received training in accordance with 30 CFR Part 48.
MSHA was notified at 9:00 a.m. on the day of the accident by a telephone call from the office manager for the mining company. An investigation was started the same day.
The Sears Road Pit, an open-pit crushed stone operation, owned and operated by Portable Rock Production Co., Inc., was located near Eugene, Lane County, Oregon. The principal operating official was Lonny Bessett, vice-president. The mine was normally operated, one 10-hour shift a day, four days a week. A total of five persons was employed.
Limestone was drilled, blasted, and pushed from multiple benches to a crushing plant in the pit. The material was crushed, sized and stockpiled for sale as construction aggregate.
The last regular inspection of this operation was conducted on August 10, 1998. Another inspection was conducted following this investigation.
The accident occurred on the third bench in the pit which was configured in a "V" shape. Broken material was bulldozed from the fourth (top) bench to the pit floor and to the crusher feeder. The benches were not permanent and their configuration changed as material was pushed to the crusher. On the day preceding the accident, the victim had been pushing material from the fourth bench to the pit bottom, preparatory to blasting. During this process, some of the material supporting the outer edge of the third bench was removed. The third bench was about 11 feet wide directly in front of the section that collapsed and about 14 feet wide behind the collapsed section. The height of the bench was approximately 19 feet.
The equipment involved was a Caterpillar D8N bulldozer manufactured in 1991. It was powered by a 285-horsepower, diesel engine and a three-speed transmission. Attachments were a U-type blade in front and a ripper on the back. As equipped, the bulldozer weighed approximately 92,000 pounds and was eight feet, ten inches wide, excluding its blade and control arms. Outside width of the blade was 13 feet, nine inches.
The bulldozer was equipped with a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) with brush guards (screens) and sweeps. The ROPS was manufactured by Medford Steel Company and was rated at 95,900 pounds. Seat belts were provided. The excess portion of the belt on one side had been cut or torn off about 2� inches from the metal end of the belt which prevented adjustment to a longer length. The other side of the belt was cut or torn slightly on each side, approximately eight inches from the buckle. While the machine was extensively damaged by the rollover, an examination following the accident revealed no safety defects other than the seat belts.
The mine operator had a written policy requiring seat belts to be worn on all mobile equipment but there was no record of enforcement. The company president stated they were reluctant to require Smith to wear his seat belt.
On the day of the accident, Vernon Smith (victim) reported for work at 6:00 a.m., his usual starting time. Eugene Wright, driller, told Smith that he needed diesel fuel for the air compressor on the top bench where he was operating a drill. Smith replied that he would widen the bench, then bring the fuel in a 55-gallon barrel.
Wright walked to the top bench and began drilling. At about 6:50 a.m., Wright saw Smith attempting to travel the third level bench with the barrel of fuel chained to the blade. When the bulldozer reached a point directly beneath the drill, it began to slip to the right, picked up speed, then rolled sideways. The bulldozer rolled once onto the second level bench, then rolled another one and one-half times onto the bottom bench, coming to rest on it's right side.
Wright began yelling for help and attracted the attention of Kenneth Johnson, laborer. Johnson notified Arthur Squires, plant operator, and Neal Remy, loader operator. When Johnson arrived at the scene, the bulldozer's engine was still running. Squires and Remy arrived moments later. Smith was inside the ROPS, lying on the right side brush screen with his head resting on the support structure. He was not wearing the seat belt.
Squires called for assistance on his cellular telephone while Johnson and Remy looked after Smith. Squires was not able to contact the local 911 emergency assistance number, so he called the main office. No one answered there, so he called his wife and instructed her to call for an ambulance. An ambulance arrived a short time later and Smith was transported to a local hospital where he remained in a coma until his death on September 11, 1998.
The direct cause of the accident was attempting to travel the pit bench which was too narrow to support the size and weight of the bulldozer. Failure to wear seat belts contributed to the severity of the accident. The mine operator's failure to maintain the seat belts in functional condition and failure to enforce company policy and federal regulations regarding the wearing of seat belts were also contributing factors.
Order No. 4375992 was issued on September 2, 1998 under the provisions of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act:
A serious accident occurred when a D8N Caterpillar bulldozer rolled off the third bench of the quarry. This order prohibits the moving of the bulldozer and any work in or near the quarry bench area. This order is issued to ensure the safety of persons at the operation until the affected area of the mine can be returned to normal operation as determined by an authorized representative of the Secretary.
This order was terminated on October 15, 1998, after it was determined that the mine could safely return to normal operations.
Citation No. 4135311 was issued on October 15, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104(d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR Part 56.14130(g):
A fatal accident occurred at this mine on September 2, 1998, when a bulldozer overturned in the pit. The third level bench caved from beneath the bulldozer causing it to roll 2� times. The victim was not wearing the seat belt. The mine operator's failure to require and ensure that the bulldozer operator wore the seat belt is a lack of reasonable care constituting more than ordinary negligence and is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.
This citation was terminated on November 9, 1998, after the company instituted a new seat belt policy and informed employees that it would be enforced.
Order No. 4135313 was issued on October 15, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104(d)(1) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR Part 56.14130(i):
A fatal accident occurred at this mine on September 2, 1998, when a bulldozer overturned in the pit. The seat belts on the bulldozer were not maintained in functional condition, in that a portion of the belt had been cut or torn 2� inches from the metal end preventing adjustment of the belt to a longer length. Further, the belt was cut or torn slightly on each edge, about eight inches from the buckle. The mine operator's failure to ensure that the seat belts were properly maintained is a lack of reasonable care constituting more than ordinary negligence and is un unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.
This order was terminated on November 9, 1998, after the bulldozer was removed from the mine site.
Citation No. 4135314 was issued on October 15, 1998, under the provisions of Section 104(a) of the Mine Act for violation of 30 CFR Part 56.3130:
A fatal accident occurred at this mine on September 2, 1998, when a bulldozer overturned in the pit. When the bulldozer operator traversed the third level bench, the outer edge of the bench failed causing the bulldozer to overturn. Removal of material from the second level bench the previous day eliminated adequate support for the third bench. The mine operator failed to use mining methods that would maintain wall, bank, and slope stability in this area.
This citation was terminated on November 9, 1998, after the company developed and instituted a a written plan to assure wall, bank, and slope stability in the pit.
Persons present during the investigation:
Portable Rock Production Co, Inc.
Lonny Bessett .......... vice-president
Arthur Squires .......... plant operator
Eugene Wright .......... driller
Neal Remy .......... loader operator
Kenneth Johnson .......... laborer
Dorothy Paeschke .......... office manager
Pape Bros., Inc.
Roger Barrick .......... equipment appraiser
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Collin R. Galloway .......... supervisory mine safety and health inspector
Joel T. Tankersley .......... mine safety and health inspector
Robert C. Boring .......... electrical engineer
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