Working near belt conveyors: Recent deaths spur MSHA safety alert

Lock Out Tag Out Procedures Archives - Mine Safety Center

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Arlington, VA — Spurred by numerous fatalities related to the hazards of working near belt conveyors, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert.

Published on Sept. 3, the alert states that eight fatalities involving belt conveyors have occurred in the industry since Jan. 26, 2017. Six involved miners working near a moving conveyor, and two occurred during maintenance on an idle conveyor.

“All of these fatalities could have been prevented with proper lockout/tagout and blocking against motion before working,” the alert states.

MSHA details the most recent incident, which occurred in December and remains under investigation. A miner was fatally injured after removing a splice pin from a mainline conveyor that was caught between the belt and frame of the belt tailpiece.

The agency lists multiple best practices for working safely near belt conveyors, including:

  • Identify, isolate and control stored mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and gravitational energy.
  • Effectively block the belt conveyor to prevent movement in either direction.
  • Relieve belt tension by releasing energy at the take up/belt storage system. Remember: Some tensile energy might still exist.
  • Position belt splice in an area of safe access to avoid pinch points.
  • De-energize electrical power, and lock and tag the main disconnect before beginning maintenance. Permit only the person who installed a lock and tag to remove them – and only after completing the work.
  • Never lock out start and stop controls or belt switches, as they don’t disconnect power conductors.

McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.


MSHA – Mine Fatality #13

MINE FATALITY – On August 18, 2020, a miner was killed while attempting to clear a material blockage. The miner entered the cone crusher to begin work when the material shifted and engulfed him.  He was extracted from the crusher and taken to a hospital, where he died the next day.

accident scene where the victim was extracted from the crusher and taken to a hospital, where he died the next day
Best Practices:
  • Properly design chutes and crushers to prevent blockages. Install a heavy screen (grizzly) to control the size of material and prevent clogging.
  • Equip chutes with mechanical devices such as vibrating shakers or air cannons to loosen blockages, or provide other effective means of handling material, so miners are not exposed to entrapment hazards by falling or sliding material.
  • Establish and discuss policies and procedures for safely clearing crushers.
  • Train miners to recognize and safely remove all potential hazards before beginning work and when clearing blocked crushers.
Additional Information:

This is the 13th fatality reported in 2020, and the second classified as “Fall of Material.”


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

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.