DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
COAL MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION
Surface Coal Mine
Fatal Falling, Rolling, or Sliding Rock or Material
Tuscaloosa Resources, Inc.
Brookwood, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
Mine I.D. 01-03196
October 7, 2002
Charles A. Scott
Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector
Christopher J. Kelly
Michael P. Stark
Mine Safety and Health Administration
135 Gemini Circle, Suite 213
Birmingham, AL 35209
Richard A. Gates, Acting District Manager
Release date: January 30, 2003
On October 7, 2002, at approximately 1:00 p.m., William Boyd, a 31 year old coal scrapper/skid steer operator at the Carter Mine, was fatally injured when he was struck by a single clay mass that fell approximately 43 feet from the loose, unconsolidated material located above the highwall. Boyd was shoveling coal/spoil from the base of the highwall at the time of the accident. The accident occurred as a result of the following factors:
- The failure to strip loose material from the top of the highwall
- The standard work practice of having personnel hand loading/shoveling at the base of the highwall for the purpose of removing spoil/contaminants from the coal.
- The failure to identify conditions that posed a hazard to personnel in the active work area.
Boyd had been employed at the Carter Mine since November, 11, 2000. He had a total of five years surface mining experience.
The Carter Mine (Mine I.D. 01-03196), located in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, is a surface coal mine owned and operated by Tuscaloosa Resources, Inc. and has a total employment of 31. The mine is a multi-seam truck and shovel (Trac-Hoe) operation that works two ten-hour shifts, five to six days a week, and produces approximately 35 to 45 thousand tons of coal per month. The 2001 nonfatal days lost (NFDL) incidence rate for this mine was 0.0 as compared to the national rate of 2.13.
The principal officials are:
The bi-annual AAA inspection had been completed on September 14, 2002.
J. M. Gaines President Tab Hudson Vice President Gene Ed Crawford Mine Superintendent
On Monday, October 7, 2002, at 5:45 a.m., William Boyd, along with the rest of the day shift crew, began work at the Carter Mine. Boyd was employed as "coal scrapper" whose duties included operating a skid steer loader to push up the pit coal into a stockpile and remove any spoil material that could contaminate the coal. The skid steer was used because of its ability to maneuver around the base of the highwall.
At the beginning of the shift, a moderate to heavy rainfall occurred that lasted between 15 and 30 minutes. After the rainfall, Gene Ed Crawford, Mine Superintendent, examined the pit area and no hazardous conditions were noted. Between 6:00 a.m. and 6:15 a.m, personnel entered the mine pit to begin operations. The mine was actively extracting the two lower seams, the Carter and the Milldale. The Milldale (see appendices C and D) was approximately 25 to 30 feet above the Carter. The upper Brookwood and Guide seams had been mined in the previous cycle. There was no activity taking place on the Guide seam (upper) bench, but the overburden above the Guide seam had been blasted the week before (October 1st) in preparation to advance the mining cycle. The blasted overburden migrated toward the edge of the Milldale pit highwall, eliminating the bench that had been present along the Guide seam prior to the October 1st blast. Intermittent bulldozer operation that occurred along the Guide seam bench after the blast pushed additional material toward the edge of the Milldale pit highwall. Some of this material had fallen to the Milldale pit floor and had been removed during subsequent operations.
Boyd, along with Wayne Martin, front-end loader operator, were assigned to break up and load out the Milldale seam. This work consisted of the loader operator using the bucket to break up the seam, load the pit coal trucks, and to stockpile the coal while waiting on the trucks to cycle. Boyd, operating the skid steer, pushed up loose coal that the loader could not get to and also removed spoil that was in and around the coal. The mine did not have coal washing capability and found it necessary to use the mining system and mobile equipment to segregate the coal from any spoil material. This would include, if necessary, hand shoveling that would be done by the skid steer operator.
Boyd and Martin continued to work the Milldale seam until the noon lunch break. Resuming work around 12:30 p.m., Martin continued loading coal while Boyd refueled the skid steer. At approximately 1:00 p.m., Boyd maneuvered the machine to within 10 to 15 feet of the highwall. Observed by Martin, he exited the skid steer and began hand shoveling at the base of the highwall. Martin maneuvered his loader toward the stockpile, losing sight of Boyd. At that time, James Pierson, truck driver, was entering the pit to be loaded. His view of Boyd was blocked by the loader, but he saw material fall from the highwall. Martin turned to view the highwall and saw Boyd lying on the ground. He immediately exited the loader and began administering CPR. Fire and Rescue personnel from the Brookwood Fire Department and Jim Walter Resources, Inc., responded to the scene within 20 minutes. No vital signs were detected and Boyd was pronounced dead at the scene by the Tuscaloosa County Medical Examiner.
Terry Langley, Coal Mine Safety and Health Supervisor for the Hueytown Office, was notified of the accident at 1:30 p.m. CMS&H accident investigators James Boyle and Charles (Allen) Scott along with Accident Investigation Coordinator Gary Wirth were dispatched to the site to begin the investigation. An order was issued pursuant to section 103(k) of the Mine Act to ensure the safety of the miners. A physical examination of the accident scene commenced on October 7. The examination continued on October 8 when the investigators were joined by Christopher Kelly and Michael Stark, Civil Engineers from MSHA's Technical Support Division of Mine Waste and Geotechnical Engineering. The accident scene was photographed, diagramed, and all relevant equipment examined. The examination of the scene was concluded on October 10, 2002.
Interviews with persons who had knowledge of the accident were conducted by MSHA. Interviews began on October 8, 2002, with the final interviews concluding on October 24, 2002.
- The Carter Mine, owned and operated by Tuscaloosa Resources, Inc., is a multi- seam, truck and shovel (Trac-Hoe) surface coal mine operation. The four seams that are recovered, in order of increasing depth, are the Guide, Brookwood, Milldale, and Carter. The highwall can range from 15 to 150 feet, depending on the seam and pit configuration at the time of mining.
- The mining cycle, as described in the ground control plan, begins with the removal of unconsolidated overburden above the Guide seam and the blasting of the remaining consolidated overburden. The operation does not utilize "cast" blasting, so the overburden is spoiled into the previous cut by mechanical means (bulldozers and Trac-Hoe). The Trac-Hoe bucket is used to scale the highwall as the overburden level is lowered. Subsequent lifts are taken in the same manner, but much of the overburden has to be trucked out. The cycle can result in a "stair step" highwall configuration, with 5 to 10 foot benches at the seams, but there are no provisions in the ground control plan that require the operator to re-establish a bench once the mining cycle is advanced. The mine has two Trac- Hoes and can work two seams or benches at any given time. ANFO with non-electrical initiation is used for blasting.
- The unconsolidated overburden above the Guide seam can be characterized as soil and clay subsoil. The consolidated partings above the Guide are a densely packed clay layer and highly weathered shale that transitions to a shale and sandy shale. The parting between the Brookwood and Milldale is shale and a sandy shale. The parting above the lower seam (Carter) is sandstone.
- On October 7, 2002, mining was being conducted at the two lower seams, Carter and Milldale (see appendices C and D). The Milldale pit, where the accident occurred, was adjacent to the Carter pit. The pits were separated by approximately 1000 feet. The mining cycle had previously removed the Guide and Brookwood seams. On October 1, 2002, in preparation to advance the mining cycle, the overburden above the Guide seam had been blasted. Before the blast, the Guide seam had a reported 5 to 10 foot horizontal bench. The material generated from the blast expanded to fill the area of the bench and migrated toward the edge of the highwall. Intermittent bulldozer operation, during the previous week (October 1st -5th), caused additional material to deposit along the highwall edge, with some material falling to the Milldale pit floor. The Milldale highwall had a northwest-southeast orientation with mining proceeding in a southwest direction.
- The Milldale pit highwall face was approximately 43 feet high and sloped away from the pit at an estimated 10 degrees from the vertical. The strata consisted of alternating, horizontal beds of coal and fractured, grey shale. Bucket marks (teeth) from the Trac-Hoe were evident along the length of the wall indicating that the operator had scaled the highwall as prescribed in the ground control plan. The highwall was overlain by some 20 feet of highly weathered shale and clay that had migrated to the highwall edge due to the October 1st blast and subsequent equipment operation. The majority of this material was sloping away from the pit at an estimated 30 to 40 degrees, however, several large pieces of clay were resting at the very edge of the highwall.
- William Boyd was working as a coal "scrapper". His duties were to support the operation of the front-end loader by using the Caterpillar Model 246 skid steer to push loose coal to the stockpile and to remove spoil material that would contaminate the coal. The mine does not utilize a coal washer and relies on the skill of the mobile equipment operators to segregate the coal from any contaminants. This includes hand loading/shoveling if personnel deem it necessary.
- At the time of the accident, Boyd had maneuvered the skid steer to within 10 to 15 feet of the base of the Milldale pit highwall, exited and was hand shoveling at the highwall base. He was struck by a clay mass that fell from the upper edge of the highwall. The victim was not wearing a hard hat, although one was available in the skid steer.
- The clay mass that struck Boyd was estimated to be 0.75 cubic feet and weighed 60 pounds. The mass came from the loose material at the top of the highwall that was a product of the October 1st blast.
- The sky was clear and visibility was good. The pit floor was level and, at the time of the investigation, not congested. There were no mechanical defects found on the skid steer.
- On the day of the accident, the National Climatic Data Center for the Tuscaloosa Municipal Airport recorded that the reporting area had received 0.23 inches of rainfall. The rainfall occurred between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. and was characterized as moderate to heavy thunderstorms. The mine reported rainfall between 5:45 a.m. and 6:15 a.m.
- Ground water flow was observed from the highwall face, mainly at the Brookwood seam. There was no water, pooled or flowing, observed at the interface of the blasted material and highwall. It could not be determined conclusively that the rainfall event caused or contributed to the fall.
- On the day of the accident, Gene Ed Crawford, mine superintendent and certified examiner, was in charge of pit operations. Mr. Crawford stated he had examined the work area and highwall after the morning rainfall and an additional 2 or 3 times during the shift, the latest being approximately 30 minutes before the accident occurred. There were no hazardous conditions recorded for these examinations although the material along the edge of the Milldale pit highwall had been there for several days prior to the accident.
- Wayne Martin, front end loader operator, was working at the Milldale pit with Boyd. He stated that no work or operations were being conducted above the work area at the time of the accident.
- William Boyd had received Part 48.28, Annual Refresher Training, on February 16, 2002.
- The Tuscaloosa County Medical Examiner (ME) listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head. In the ME's opinion, it was possible that a hard hat would have mitigated the severity of the injuries.
- Based on the findings of this investigation, the operator has revised the Ground Control Plan to restrict work activity within 15 feet of the highwall, eliminating the practice of hand shoveling at the base of the highwall, and specifying safeguards that are necessary in the event circumstances require the highwall to be approached. The plan specifies that when the mining cycle advances to the upper seams before the lower seams have been fully extracted, the upper seam will be benched. Additionally, the operator has instituted a standard procedure that personnel will wear a hard hat at all times.
A root cause analysis was performed for the identified causal factors associated with this accident. The following was determined:
- Causal factor: The failure to re-establish a bench, or to strip away the loose material on top of the highwall that personnel were working under. It was this material that fell and struck the victim.
Root cause: Failure to follow requirement to strip loose, unconsolidated material from the top of the highwall.
- Causal factor: The standard work practice of having personnel hand loading/shoveling at the base of the highwall for the purpose of removing spoil/contaminants from the coal.
Root Cause: There was no policy or procedure to prohibit this work.
- Causal factor: The failure to identify conditions that posed a hazard to personnel in the active work area.
Root Cause: An inadequate on shift examination was conducted for the active work area.
The victim was fatally injured when struck by a clay mass that fell from the loose, unconsolidated material that had been deposited along the top of the highwall from previous mining operations. The victim was shoveling coal/spoil at the base of the highwall when the accident occurred. Based on the root cause analysis of the causal factors, the accident could have been prevented by recognizing and following the requirement to strip away loose, hazardous material from the top of the highwall and by eliminating the work practice that had personnel shoveling at or around the highwall. These issues have been addressed by the operator in a revised Ground Control Plan. The use of a hard hat likely would have mitigated the severity of the accident, but would not have prevented the accident.
- 103(k) Order No. 7676871 was issued on October 7, 2002. This order was issued to assure the safety of persons in the coal mine until an investigation was completed
- A 104(a) citation was issued under 30 CFR 77.1001, stating:
"The operator failed to strip loose, hazardous material for a safe distance away from the top of the Milldale pit highwall. Loose material from an October 1st blast of the Guide Seam overburden had migrated to the edge of the highwall above the Milldale Seam work area. William Boyd, coal scrapper, was hand shoveling call/spoil material at the base of this highwall and received fatal injuries when he was struck by a clay mass, weighing approximately 60 pounds, that fell from the blasted material resting on top of the highwall at the Guide Seam interface."
- A 104(a) citation was issued under 30 CFR 77.1710(d), stating:
"An employee did not wear a suitable hard hat while working in an area where there was a hazard of falling objects."
"William Boyd, coal scrapper, was hand shoveling coal/spoil at the base of the Milldale Seam highwall and received fatal injuries when he was struck by a clay mass, weighing approximately 60 pounds, that fell from loose material that had been deposited on top of the highwall."
- A 104(a) citation was issued under 30 CFR 77.1713(a), stating:
"The operator failed to conduct an adequate daily on-shift examination to detect hazardous conditions for the active Milldale pit working area, October 7, 2002."
"Loose (clay) material from an October 1, 2002 blast of overburden, and subsequent equipment operation (October 1-5), had migrated to the edge of the top of the Milldale pit highwall. This consisted of an agglomeration of material ranging in size from less than one inch to over 2 feet (estimated) and was visible along the edge of the highwall. On October 7, 2002, William Boyd was hand shoveling coal/spoil material at the base of this highwall and received fatal injuries when he was struck by a clay mass, weighing approximately 60 pounds, that fell from the blasted material resting along the top edge of the highwall."
Related Fatal Alert Bulletin:
Tuscaloosa Resources, Inc.:
J. M. Gaines, President
Tab Hudson, Vice President
Gene Ed Crawford, Superintendent, Carter Mine
Randall Crawford, Foreman and Trac-Hoe Operator
James T. Weiss, Safety and Training (Consultant)
Alabama Department of Natural Resources:
Gary D. Key, Mine Inspector
Mine Safety and Health Administration:
James Boyle, Mining Engineer, District 11
Charles A. Scott, Coal Mine Safety and Health Inspector, District 11
Gary Wirth, Coal Mine Safety and Health Supervisor, District 11
Christopher J. Kelly, Civil Engineer, Technical Support, Division of Mine Waste and Geotechnical Engineering
Michael P. Stark, Civil Engineer, Technical Support, Division of Mine Waste and Geotechnical Engineering
Tuscaloosa Resources, Inc.:
Gene Ed Crawford, Superintendent
James Michael Pierson, Coal Truck Driver
James Andrew, Coal "Scrapper" (Skid Steer Operator)
Wayne Martin, Front End Loader Operator
Dennis Crawford, Trac-Hoe Operator
Mark Barger, Blaster, Nelson Brothers