Department of Labor
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Coal Mine Safety and Heath Administration
Report of Investigation
Surface Coal Mine
Fatal Fall of Person
August 13, 2002
Gastown Strip Pit #12
Big Mack Leasing Co. Inc.
Shelocta, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania
I.D. No. 36 08777
Thomas H. Whitehair II
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
John H. Kopsic
Coal Mine Safety and Health Specialist
Mine Safety and Health Administration
319 Painterville Road, Hunker, Pa. 15639
Cheryl McGill, District Manager
RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2002
On August 13, 2002, at approximately 3:00 a.m., Edward Schall, a 66 year old highwall drill operator with 29 years experience, was fatally injured when he walked off the edge of a highwall, falling a distance of 23 feet. The victim was walking from his truck to a highwall drill positioned on a drill bench. It had rained during the night and fog blanketed the mine site.
The fatality occurred when the victim walked in dark and foggy conditions over the edge of the highwall and fell 23 feet to the rocks below. The root causes of the accident were: (1) Illumination was not being used in dark and foggy conditions. (2) The victim walked around the left side of the pile of spoil and was exposed to the edge of the highwall. There was no policy on how the drill was to access his work area. (3) The edge of the highwall was not guarded on the left side of the barrier. (4) The victim frequently started his workday before the supervisor arrived on mine property.
The Gastown Strip Pit #12, I.D. No. 36 08777 is operated by Big Mack Leasing Co., Inc. The pit is located off state route 210, two miles north of Elderton, Plumcreek Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. The mine produces 500 tons of coal daily, operating one 10 hour shift, 5 days a week, providing employment for 6 miners. The Upper Freeport coal seam is mined using the box cut method.
The last regular Safety and Health Inspection at this mine was completed July 25, 2002. The Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) incidence rate for the mine was 0.00. The NFDL rate for the Nation for surface mines was 2.43.
The principle officer at Big Mack Leasing Co. Inc. at the time of the accident was Terry L. Schall, President.
On August 13, 2002, Edward E. Schall, highwall drill operator, arrived at the mine at approximately 3:00 a.m. to begin his shift. The normal starting time is 6:00 a.m.; however, Schall started early to avoid the heat of the day. It had rained during the night and the job site was blanketed in fog. Schall parked his truck approximately 500 feet from the drill, which was located on a bench he had started drilling the previous day. Walking to the drill, he went around the highwall side of a pile of spoil material blocking vehicle access to the drill bench. Schall was not carrying a light and in the dark and foggy conditions walked off the edge of the highwall falling 23 feet to the base of the wall. Schall used a cell phone he carried in his lunch bucket to call his son-in-law, Jim Meyer. Schall was only able to tell Meyer that he was "over the wall" before he stopped talking. Not understanding what "over the wall" meant, Meyer drove to the mine. After a brief search with the aid of a flashlight, Meyer observed Schall lying at the base of the highwall. Meyer called 911 then went to Schall to comfort him until emergency personnel arrived. Citizens Ambulance Service and Elderton Volunteer Fire Department responded and treated the victim who was conscious and responsive. Citizens Ambulance Service transported Schall to Armstrong County Memorial Hospital. Just before arrival, Schall became unresponsive and pulseless. He was pronounced dead at 4:56 a.m. by Dr. Robert Paul Patterson, DO.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Kittanning Field Office was notified of the accident by Tammy Kijowshi, bookkeeper for Big Mack Leasing, at 6:15 a.m., Tuesday, August 13, 2002. Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspectors, Joe O`Donnell and Randy Myers were sent to the mine to issue a 103 (K) order to ensure the safety of the miners until an investigation could be conducted. An accident investigation team was assembled and consisted of an accident investigator and a Safety and Health Specialist (Surface).
MSHA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection jointly conducted the investigation with the assistance of mine management. A list of those persons who participated in the investigation is contained in the appendix of this report.
Interviews were conducted at the mine site. The onsite investigation was completed on August 14, 2002.
The normal starting time is 6:00 a.m. The victim started his shift at 3:00 a.m. and was alone when the accident occurred. The foreman was aware that Schall was going to start early the day of the accident.
It had rained during the night; the early morning was dark and foggy.
The victim could have driven his truck on an access road to the drill, but chose to park on the drill bench approximately 500 feet from the drill. This required him to take a route along the drill bench.
The victim was not carrying a light. A flashlight was found in the cab of the victim's truck.
A pile of spoil material was placed between the two drill benches as a barrier to prevent vehicular travel. Foot travel was possible on both sides of the pile of spoil. The left side had an opening that was unobstructed. The right side was partially obstructed by spoil. This barrier was installed the day before the accident occurred.
The victim walked on the left side of the pile of spoil material and was exposed to the edge of the highwall. If the victim had walked on the right side of the pile of spoil material, he would not have been close to the edge of the highwall.
The entire edge of the highwall was provided with a berm except for the area where the mound barrier had been placed. This area had not been drilled.
The victim called Jim Meyer, son-in-law, for help using a cell phone he carried in his lunch bucket. Meyer is also employed at the mine and lives approximately 10 minutes away.
The foreman, Terry Schall, was in route to the mine and arrived at the same time as the rescue units.
Training records were reviewed; no deficiencies were identified.
Root cause analysis was performed using the data from the accident. The following causal factors and root causes were identified:
1. Causal Factor - Schall walked around the left side of the spoil pile and was exposed to the hazard of an unguarded highwall. Root Causes - Human Performance Difficulty - (1) There was no policy as to how the drill operator should access his work area. (2) The employee frequently worked with no supervisor present. The supervisor was not present to see the victim's unsafe route of travel to the drill.
2. Causal Factor - The edge of the highwall was not guarded on the left side of the pile of spoil. Root Cause - Human Performance Difficulty - The edge of the highwall in this area was not guarded to prevent access by personnel to a hazardous location. The severity of the hazard was more pronounced due to the dark and foggy conditions.
3. Causal Factor - Schall did not carry a light. A flashlight was found in the victim's truck. Root Cause- Human Performance Difficulty- Had Schall had adequate lighting, he would have seen his position relative to the edge of the highwall.
The fatality occurred when the victim walked in dark and foggy conditions over the edge of the highwall and fell 23 feet to the rocks below. The root causes of the accident were: (1) Illumination was not being used in dark and foggy conditions. (2) The victim walked around the left side of the pile of spoil and was exposed to the edge of the highwall. There was no policy on how the driller was to access his work area. (3) The edge of the highwall was not guarded on the left side of the barrier. (4) The victim frequently started his workday before the supervisor arrived on mine property.
The following citations/orders were issued due to conditions revealed during the investigation:
(1). A 103 (k) order was issued to ensure the safety of all persons at the mine until an investigation could be completed and the mine deemed safe.
(2). A 104(a) citation was issued for a violation of 30 CFR 77.207. No illumination was provided along the travelway to the drill at Pit No. 12.
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
The following persons provided information and/or were present during the investigation.
Terry L. Schall* .......... President/Foreman
Jim Meyer* .......... Bulldozer Operator
Andrew Buzzard Jr. .......... Mine Inspector
William Shuss .......... Explosive Inspector
Bryant Hoover* .......... EMT
Don Rupert* .......... Volunteer/Rescue Member
Carol M. Boring .......... Staff Assistant
Thomas H. Whitehair II .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
John H. Kopsic .......... Coal Mine Safety and Health Specialist
Robert T. Bower* .......... Coroner
* Persons interviewed.