DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
(SURFACE PREPARATION PLANT)
FATAL FALL OF PERSON ACCIDENT
BETH STATION NO. 79 PREPARATION PLANT (ID NO. 46-05398)
HOBET MINING, INC.
SHADE TREE SPECIALTY (ID NO. 1FR)
Madison, Boone County, West Virginia
March 2, 2000
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ronald R. Miles
Originating Office - Mine Safety and Health Administration
100 Bluestone Road, Mount Hope, West Virginia 25880
Edwin P. Brady, District Manager
On Thursday, March 2, 2000, at approximately 10:30 a.m., a fatal fall of person accident occurred in the B-side of the coal preparation plant at the raw coal classifying cyclone sump of the Beth Station No. 79 Preparation Plant, Hobet Mining, Inc., ID No. 46-05398. The accident resulted in fatal injuries to Billy Joe Gill, an electrical contractor employed by Shade Tree Specialty, ID No. 1FR. The contractors were hired by Ashland Chemical, Inc., to install a chemical system in the Hobet Mining, Inc., Beth Station No. 79 Preparation Plant.
Gill had 25 years of mining experience, including five and a half months with Shade Tree Specialty contractors. The accident occurred while Gill was removing a section of previously installed electrical conduit located over the top of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump. Gill had positioned himself on a section of the 10-gauge perforated metal covering the top of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump (See Sketch). The metal covering had deteriorated to the point that it would not support Gill's body weight, allowing Gill to fall through the metal covering into the operating sump, causing fatal injuries.
The Beth Station No. 79 Preparation Plant of Hobet Mining, Inc., is located at Julian, near Madison, Boone County, West Virginia. The coal preparation plant began operation in August of 1979. Employment is provided for 43 hourly and 10 salary persons on three production shifts per day, with maintenance performed as needed. The preparation plant produces an average of 5 million clean tons of coal annually. The preparation plant consists of two independent cleaning circuits, the A-side with a raw feed of 600 tons per hour and the B-side with a raw feed of 800 tons per hour. Raw coal is transported from the Hobet 21 surface mine operation and a contract underground mine across 10 miles of conveyor belts to raw coal storage silos and through feeders onto two separate conveyor belts that have the ability to feed either the A or B side of the preparation plant. Coal from the underground mine is transported to the preparation plant site by coal trucks and is unloaded into two separate truck dumps and sent directly to the raw coal silos.
The parent company of Hobet Mining, Inc., is Arch Coal, Inc. Principal officials of Arch Coal, Inc., are the following: Steven Leer, President; Kenneth Woodring, Executive Vice President-Operations; and Robert Bays, General Manager. The principal officials for Hobet Mining, Inc., are the following: Cliff Higgerson, General Manager; Greg DeHart, Manager of Preparation; Robert DeHart, Superintendent of Preparation; Michael Marcum, Foreman; Thomas Hankins, Foreman; and Gary Newsome, Foreman.
Shade Tree Specialty, Federal ID No. 1FR, began operation in November 1998, installing and repairing chemical feed equipment systems in preparation plants. Work is provided for two full- time employees and one part-time employee, working four ten hour shifts a week. The principal official of Shade Tree Specialty is Steve Gunnoe, General Manager of Operations.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT
On Thursday, March 2, 2000, at 6:00 a.m., Billy Joe Gill, crew leader and victim, and Morgan L. Richardson, Jr., helper, employees of Shade Tree Specialty, departed the central shop in Beckley, West Virginia. The two employees traveled to the Beth Station No. 79 Preparation Plant located at Julian, Boone County, West Virginia, arriving at about 8:00 a.m. Their work shift began by unloading an air compressor with a plant employee, Raven Toney, assisting them. Gill and Richardson then moved a man-lift machine to the front corner of the preparation plant B-side and surveyed where they were going to run conduit on the second floor of the plant. They were informed by the plant electrician to move a short section of the conduit that had been previously installed over the raw coal classifying cyclone. After assessing where they would run the conduit, Gill went downstairs to start removing the old conduit. Richardson was on the second floor, cutting a hole in the wall of the preparation plant where electrical conduit was to be installed. While Richardson was performing his task, he noticed Gill come up underneath him on a ladder between floors, removing the sections of the previously installed conduit. Richardson noticed that Gill had gone back down the ladder out of his view. About 15 to 20 minutes later, around 10:40 a.m., Richardson had completed his task on the second floor of the plant, and had gone downstairs to the first floor to assist Gill in completing his work. Richardson didn't find Gill, but he noticed Gill's tape measure lying on the top of the operating raw coal classifying cyclone sump's metal covering as he walked down the stairway to the first floor located alongside the sump.
Still unsuccessful in finding Gill, Richardson went to the plant phone and paged Gill and Raven Toney. Receiving no answer from either after several attempts, Richardson then walked to the plant office to borrow a mine light. On his way back to the sump location, he made another attempt to page Gill and Toney on the plant phone. Richardson then went to the sump location and climbed the access ladder. Shining the light on the top of the sump, he noticed a hole in the metal covering with Gill's tape measure lying beside the hole. Richardson became quite alarmed and made several attempts to find Gill. Richardson then walked to Raven Toney's location behind the plant and asked Toney to come with him so he could show him a hole in the metal covering on the sump. Richardson asked Toney if he remembered the hole being in the metal covering. Toney stated he could not remember seeing a hole in the metal covering on the top of the sump. Richardson told Toney he could not find Gill. At that point, they both made a quick search through the plant in an attempt to find Gill. As Toney was searching down through the A-side of the plant for Gill, he contacted Greg DeHart, the Preparation Plant Manager, by phone and told him a contractor was missing and that he may be in the sump. DeHart paged Rick Cook, the control room operator, and told him to shut the B-side of the plant down immediately. DeHart then went down to the first floor of the plant to the bottom of the sump and opened the drain valve to empty the sump. Toney got a mine light from the plant office and went back to the sump location. Toney, along with John M. Miller from the weld shop, traveled up the stairway to a location next to the top of the sump. Toney climbed out onto the metal covering of the sump and shined the light down through perforated metal covering into the sump. He saw an ink pen and something else floating in the sump. Toney then opened the man door in the top of the sump to get a clear view into the sump. Once Toney was able to shine the light into the sump through the opening, he saw the victim floating face down in the sump. Toney then climbed off the sump. After the sump was completely drained, John M. Miller and Keith Stephens, plant employees, put an extension ladder down inside the sump through the man door opening to get to the victim. Stephens climbed down the ladder into the sump to the victim. No pulse or other vital signs could be found by Stephens when he examined the victim. He was removed from the sump and turned over to waiting emergency personnel. The victim was transported by ambulance to the Boone Memorial Hospital, Boone County, West Virginia, where he was pronounced dead by the hospital medical staff.
INVESTIGATION OF ACCIDENT
The Mine Safety and Health Administration was notified at 11:15 a.m., on March 2, 2000, that a fatal fall of person accident had occurred. MSHA personnel arrived at the site at 12:45 p.m. on March 2, 2000. A 103(k) Order was issued to ensure the safety of the miners. The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management and representatives of the miners of Hobet Mining, Inc. A list of those who were present and/or participated in the investigation is included in the Appendix.
On March 2 and 3, 2000, representatives from all parties were briefed by mine management personnel as to the circumstances surrounding the accident. The on-site portion of the investigation was conducted. Photographs were taken, and relevant measurements and sketches were made of the accident site.
Interviews of individuals known to have knowledge of the facts before and after the accident were conducted at the Hobet Mining, Inc., office at Julian, Boone County, West Virginia, on March 3, 2000. The physical portion of the investigation was completed March 3, 2000, and the 103(k) Order was terminated.
The raw coal classifying cyclone sump is located in the "B" side, basement level, of the coal preparation plant. The cyclone sump is approximately four years old and was designed and installed by Industrial Resources, Inc., of Fairmont, West Virginia. The perforated plates located on top of the cyclone sump were included in the design to prevent materials from entering the otherwise open top. When installed, the plates had been prime coated but had not been painted with a protective coating. The plate is a 10 gauge, carbon steel, perforated plate with 3/8-inch-diameter holes on 60 degree staggered centers. "C" channels were used to construct the frame that supports the perforated plate. The "C" channels were both welded and bolted to a 2 � x 2 � x 1/4 inch angle located at the top rim of the cyclone stump. Two (10 x 15.3 pounds per foot) channels spanned across the top of cyclone sump at the center.
The victim fell through the perforated plate at a location where the plate spanned a rectangular 4-by 2 � foot opening in the "C" channel framing, about 3 1/3 feet from the center of the cyclone stump. The sections of perforated plate were fastened to the top of the "C" channels using screws. The two 10 x 15.3 "C" channels previously indicated made up the 2 � foot ends of the framed opening. Two other "C" channels, one 8 x 11.5 and the other 6 x 8.2 were bolted between the 10 x 15.3 channels making up the 4 foot long side of the opening.
The overall condition of the perforated plate was extremely poor. The perforated plate contained a substantial amount of scaled rust which could be easily broken away. The original design detailed a perforated plate with a 10 gauge thickness, or 0.1345 inches. Measurements were taken of the remaining thickness of a small section of the perforated plate which was removed from the failed area. The remaining thickness, once the loose rust was broken away, measured an average of 0.03 inches. This corresponds to a 78% reduction in the effective thickness of the plate. There were considerable cracks and small holes which propagated completely through the cross-section. The reduced effective thickness of the plate, combined with the cracks and small holes, substantially reduced the strength of the plate to the point where it would not support the weight of the victim where it spanned the 4-foot by 2 �-foot opening between supports.
All records provided showed training given to Gill was in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 48.
ExaminationThe on-shift examination record book indicated that an on-shift examination had been conducted in accordance with 30 CFR, Part 77.
1. The raw coal classifying cyclone sump involved in the accident in the B-side of the preparation plant was put into service in August 1996.
2. The raw coal classifying cyclone sump measured 14 foot across the top and 18 feet high, with a cone shape tapering to approximately 2 feet on the bottom.
3. The function of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump is to collect the minus 100 mesh by zero raw material that the plant cleans.
4. Water and raw material enter the raw coal classifying cyclone sump through four different inlet pipes located in the top of the sump (See Sketch).
5. Water and raw material are pumped from the bottom of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump through a fourteen-inch pipe by a 300 hp water pump to the top of the preparation plant.
6. The raw coal classifying cyclone sump has a total capacity of 12,300 gallons of water and raw material.
7. The raw coal classifying cyclone sump pumps 4500 gallons of water and material per minute. This large quantity caused turbulence in the sump and made it difficult for a person to remain afloat or climb out of the sump.
8. The raw coal classifying cyclone sump was 45 percent full of water and material at the time of the accident.
9. The 10-gauge perforated metal covering was originally installed on the top of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump in 1996 to keep larger items from entering the sump.
10. The raw coal classifying cyclone sump had an access ladder with a back guard permanently attached to one side of the sump that extended above the top edge of the sump frame.
11. There were no warning signs or barriers of any type at or near the access ladder to impede travel by persons onto the top covering of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump.
12. The death certificate lists the manner of death as drowning.
The fatal accident occurred when the victim positioned himself on the perforated metal covering the top of the raw coal classifying cyclone sump. The perforated metal covering had deteriorated to the point where it could not support the victim's weight, and the covering broke underneath the victim, allowing the victim to fall into the operating sump, resulting in fatal injuries.
1. A 103(k), Order No. 3568380, was issued to ensure the safety of all persons until an investigation was completed and all areas and equipment were deemed safe.
2. A 104(a), Citation No. 7182187, was issued stating in part that the 10-gauge perforated metal covering the raw coal classifying cyclone sump was not maintained in good enough repair to prevent serious accidents and/or injuries to persons.
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
The Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation, and those present and/or participating were as follows:
Hobet Mining, Inc.
Cliff Higgerson ............... General ManagerHobet Mining, Inc., Employees
Greg DeHart ............... Manager of Preparation
Thomas D. Rushing ............... Safety Specialist
Robbie DeHart ............... Superintendent of Preparation
Michael Marcum ............... Foreman
Gary Newsome ............... Foreman
Larry Scott ............... Foreman Maintenance Planner
John M. Miller ............... WelderRepresentatives of Miners
Keith N. Stephens ............... Electrician
Raven Toney ............... Equipment Operator
Kevin Breedlove ............... Utility Man
David Bowman ............... Mechanic
United Mine Workers of America
John M. Miller ............... Chairman Safety CommitteeAttorney-at-Law Representing Hobet Mining, Inc.
Richard Ryan ............... Mine Committee
David Skaggs ............... Mine Committee
Ronald Pauley ............... Mine Committee
David Hardy ............... Attorney-Jackson and Kelly Law firmShade Tree Specialty
Steven Gunnoe ............... General ManagerWest Virginia Office of Miner' Health, Safety and Training
Morgan L. Richardson, Jr. ............... Contractor Labor
Terry Farley ............... Health and Safety AdministratorMine Safety and Health Administration
Harry Linville ............... Assistant Inspector-at-Large
Jimmy A. Berry ............... Electrical Inspector
Mike Rutledge ............... Safety Inspector
Eugene White ............... District Inspector
Randall Bailey ............... District Inspector
Terry Price ............... Supervisory Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Roy W. Milam ............... Supervisory Electrical Engineer
Ronnie Joe Dooley ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Bobby Moreland ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
James Maynard ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Michael G. Kalich ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Larry Johnson ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Ronald R. Miles ............... Civil Engineer Mine Waste & Geotechnical Engineering Division
Curtiss Vance, Jr. ............... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector