Union leaders call for new MSHA silica standard

Image: NIOSH

Washington — Alarmed by a recent spike in cases of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a deadly but preventable condition commonly known as black lung, union presidents Cecil Roberts of the United Mine Workers of America and Leo Gerard of United Steelworkers have sent a letter to Mine Safety and Health Administration leader David Zatezalo requesting stricter regulation of respirable silica dust.

In the letter, dated June 19, Roberts and Gerard cite extensive research documenting the impact of silica dust exposure on the resurgence of black lung. One study, released by the University of Illinois at Chicago in May 2018, found that more than 4,600 coal miners have developed the most severe form of black lung disease since 1970, with almost half the cases emerging after 2000.

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MSHA Fatality #11

MSHA MINE FATALITY – On June 24, 2019, a 34-year-old contractor with 10 years of experience, received fatal injuries when he fell beneath the wheels of a tractor-trailer. Miners were using a bulldozer to pull the tractor-trailer, which had become stuck in the sand. As the tractor-trailer began to be pulled, the victim was seen walking toward the side of the truck. The victim died at the scene from crushing injuries after being run over by the truck wheels.

Best Practices:
  • Do not allow people to ride in any area of a vehicle that is not equipped with a seat belt.
  • When approaching large mobile equipment, do not proceed until you communicate and verify with the equipment operator your planned movement and location.
  • Stay in the line of sight with mobile equipment operators. Never assume the equipment operator sees you.
  • Ensure, by signal or other means, that all persons are clear before moving equipment.
Additional Information:

This is the 11th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of this date in 2018, there were 11 MSHA fatalities reported. This is the 5th Powered Haulage accident classification fatality in 2019. There were six Powered Haulage accident classification fatalities during the same period in 2018.

MSHA Fatality #10

MSHA MINE FATALITY – On June 10, 2019, a 22-year-old contractor with 3 years of experience, was fatally injured when he was pinned between a front-end loader and a concrete block. The victim was working in a conduit trench, preparing to install a junction box. The plant manager was using a front-end loader above to back fill the trench. The front-end loader over travelled the edge and toppled into the trench.

Best Practices:
  • Establish and discuss safe work procedures.  Identify and eliminate or control all hazards associated with the task being performed.
  • Train and monitor persons on safe work positioning.
  • Keep mobile equipment a safe distance from the edge of unstable ground, open excavations, and steep embankments.
  • Operating speeds should be consistent with conditions of roadways, grades, and the type of equipment used.
  • Assure equipment operators are familiar with their working environment. Front-end loader operators must ensure personnel are not near the machine when in operation.
Additional Information:

This is the 10th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of this date in 2018, there were 9 MSHA fatalities reported. This is the 4th Powered Haulage accident classification fatality in 2019. There were five fatalities classified as a Powered Haulage accident during the same period in 2018.

MSHA Fatality #9

MSHA MINE FATALITY – On May 22, 2019, a 48-year-old continuous mining machine operator with 12 years of experience was severely injured when a section of coal/rock rib measuring, 48 to 54” long, 24” wide, and 28” thick, fell and pinned him to the mine floor. At the time of the accident, the victim was in the process of taking the second cut of a crosscut and was moving the mining machine cable that was adjacent to the coal/rock rib. The victim was hospitalized and due to complications associated with his injuries, passed away 8 days later.

Best Practices:
  • Install rib bolts with adequate surface area coverage, during the mining cycle, and in a consistent pattern for the best protection against rib falls.
  • Follow the requirements in the approved roof control plan, and remember it contains minimum safety requirements. Install additional support when rib fractures or other abnormalities are detected. Revise the plan if conditions change and cause the support system to no longer be adequate.
  • Be aware of potential hazards when working or traveling near mine ribs, especially when geologic conditions (such as thick in-seam rock partings) could cause rib hazards.  Take additional safety precautions while working in these conditions. Correct all hazardous conditions before allowing miners to work or travel in these areas.
  • Perform complete and thorough examinations of pillar corners, particularly where the angle formed between an entry and a crosscut is less than 90 degrees.
  • Adequately support loose ribs or scale loose rib material from a safe location using a bar of suitable length and design.
  • Task train all miners to conduct thorough examinations of the roof, face, and ribs where persons will be working or traveling and to correct all hazardous conditions before miners work or travel in such areas. Continuously watch for changing conditions and conduct more frequent examinations when abnormal conditions are present.
Additional Information:

This is the 9th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019.As of this date in 2018, there were 8 MSHA fatalities reported. This is the 1st Fall of Face, Rib, Side or Highwall accident classification fatality in 2019. There was one Fall of Face, Rib, Side or Highwall accident classification fatality during the same period in 2018.

MSHA fatality #8

MSHA MINE FATALITY – On May 18, 2019, a 34-year-old plant operator with 8 years of experience received fatal injuries when he was ejected from a man lift basket. The victim was tramming while elevated at 28 feet. The miner was wearing a fall protection harness with a retractable lanyard but it was not secured/tied off to the man lift basket.

Best Practices:
  • Always stay connected/tie off.  Always attach the lanyard of the approved fall protection device to the designated attachment point.
  • Use boom functions instead of tram functions to position the platform close to obstacles.
  • Ensure that persons are properly task trained regarding safe operating procedures before allowing them to operate mobile equipment.
  • Do not place yourself in a position that will expose you to hazards while performing a task.
  • Ensure that access gates or openings are closed.
Additional Information: 

This is the 8th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019.As of this date in 2018, there were 8 MSHA fatalities reported. This is the 3rd Powered Haulage accident classification fatality in 2019. There were four Powered Haulage accident classification fatalities during the same period in 2018.

MSHA Fatality #6

MSHA MINE FATALITY – On May 13, 2019, a 59-year-old supervisor with 40 years of experience was fatally injured when the stationary crane he was operating fell 85 feet into the quarry.

Best Practices: 
  • Ensure all safety devices are functional.
  • Conduct a visual inspection of the equipment, load, and rigging prior to placing equipment in operation..
  • Conduct a visual inspection of site conditions and potential hazards.
Additional Information: 

This is the 6th MSHA fatality reported in calendar year 2019. As of this date in 2018, there were 8 MSHA fatalities reported. This is the 4th Machinery accident classification fatality in 2019. There was one Machinery accident classification fatalities during the same period in 2018.

MSHA Fatality #7

Fatality #7 – May 13, 2019

Accident Classification: Powered Haulage
Location: Gold Bar, Eureka County, NV
Mine Type: Metal and Non-Metal
Mine Controller: Rob McEwen
Mined Material: Gold Ore
Incident Date/Time: May 13, 2019 (All day)

Chargeback Explanation:

Rescission Date:  June 26, 2019

The Acting Chair of MSHA’s Chargeability Review Committee reviewed the death certificate, autopsy report, and MSHA’s accident investigation findings and determined that the miner died from natural causes.  The  fatality is not chargeable to the mining industry.