Coal worker crushed by high wall mining machine

The United States Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reports that a 38-year-old front loader operator with 10 years of mining experience was fatally injured when he was crushed between a metal support pole on a high-wall mining machine and a beam of mobile thrust.

The accident happened on March 7 at the Blue Knob surface mine in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.

A high-walled mining machine is used to dig holes several hundred feet deep, while the miners remain on the surface.

The system includes a cutting module which functions as a continuous mining machine, a pushing beam which is connected to the cutting module, and additional pushing beams connected to the first pushing beam and to each other, forming a push beam train.

Push beams allow the power head to push the cutting module deeper into the hole during operation. The extracted coal is conveyed, via an endless screw system in each push beam, to a surface belt.

According to MSHA, the worker parked his front loader and went to the high-walled mining machine to help with the job. He shoveled the mud off the rails, located next to the chain, after each push beam was removed.

While standing near the push beam bracket (bracket) on the side of the machine, the miner’s head was caught between the 14e Push beam being withdrawn and a fixed metal support post.

The small section where the victim stood was not intended to be a work area due to the proximity of the movable push beams. This area has been designated so that miners can walk momentarily when getting on and off the machine. Each push beam moved approximately 12 to 18 inches in front of the victim as it was lifted, moved horizontally, and lowered by the cradle / winch to the support.

The area where the fatal accident occurred has been painted in bright colors and posted with warning signs. In addition, physical barriers have been installed to prevent entry. The rear access steps on the support side that provide access to this area from the ground have been removed.

A handrail was installed across the access steps to the second level so that no one could enter from the upper area. Cameras were installed with monitors located in the operator’s compartment so that the operator of the high-wall mining machine could see if people were entering the red zone areas.

MSHA determined that the accident occurred because the mine operator did not identify the location of the accident as a pinch area and did not train the victim to avoid the pinch area .

A Section 103 (K) Order No. 9169757 has been issued to South Fork Coal Company, HWM 61, ID 33-04642 to ensure the safety of all persons during this operation and to preserve any evidence that may aid the investigation .

The order prohibits all work activities except shift reviews and water pumping until the MSHA determines it is safe to resume normal mining operations.

The mining operator must obtain the prior approval of an authorized representative for any action in the affected area.

About William J. Harris

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