MSHA – Mine Fatality #9

MINE FATALITY – On June 13, 2020, a dragline was found submerged in 25 feet of water where a miner had been using it to remove material from a pond. Divers attempted to locate the dragline operator, and after two days the dragline was extricated from the pond. The victim was recovered from the engine compartment behind the operator’s cab.

Best Practices:
  • Maintain control of operating mobile equipment.
  • Keep all exits clear in cabs, including alternate and emergency exits, and make sure the doors open freely before beginning work.
  • Retrofit older models of equipment with current automatic braking systems.
  • Ensure all controls and brakes are set to the appropriate position for the task.
Additional Information:

This is the ninth fatality reported in 2020, and the second classified as “Machinery”

Fall Protection June 2020 – Safety Alert

Recent Increase in Fall of Person Accidents

28 miners have died after falling from heights over the last 10 years.

Deaths from falls have increased from 8% to 19% of mining fatalities in the last two years.

  • Working without fall protection on top of trucks, in aerial lift baskets, and while accessing and egressing other mobile equipment
  • While performing maintenance on crushers, screens, conveyors, and other milling equipment

MSHA issued 92 imminent danger orders for people working at heights without fall protection between January 2019 and June 2020. The most common violations were truck drivers climbing atop their vehicles, and maintenance and quarry personnel climbing to or working without fall protection in high places. Supervisors have been ordered down from dangerous locations.

Fall protection Safety Alert information for June of 2020
Best Practices:
  • Reduce hazards. Design work areas and develop job tasks to minimize fall hazards.
  • Have a program. Establish an effective fall prevention and protection program. Provide task and site-specific hazard training that prohibits working at unprotected locations.
  • Provide a fall protection harness and lanyard to each miner who may work at an elevated height or a location unprotected by handrails. Ensure their use.
  • Provide identifiable, secure anchor points to attach lanyards.
  • Proactively enforce fall protection equipment usage and safe work-at-height policies and procedures with supervisors, miners, contractors, and truck drivers.
  • Provide mobile or stationary platforms or scaffolding at locations and on work projects where there is a risk of falling.
  • Provide safe truck tarping and bulk truck hatch access facilities.

COVID-19 pandemic: DOL inspector general identifies top issues for OSHA, MSHA

Washington — Responding to the “significant increase” in worker and whistleblower complaints complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with completing inspections and investigations – all in a timely manner – are among the challenges facing OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In a three-page report published June 17, the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General asserts that OSHA has “limited resources” to provide clear and relevant coronavirus-related guidance, as well as protect workers who report safety concerns.

For essential workers who are at high risk of exposure – including those in health care, meat processing, agriculture and manufacturing – the nature of work and inherent barriers to physical distancing make it “particularly difficult” to provide protection. “Further, unless proper precautions are taken, avoidable COVID-19 infections and deaths may occur as more people return to work,” the report adds. “OSHA is challenged in fulfilling its mission due to resource constraints and the urgency of actions required.”

Meanwhile, MSHA is challenged by agency and state travel restrictions, hindering its ability to complete inspections and investigations in a timely manner, DOL OIG contends. It notes that MSHA is focusing its efforts on the four “highest-risk” mandatory annual inspections of underground mines and the two mandatory annual inspections of surface mines.

“Both mandatory and discretionary inspections to address specific mine safety concerns are at risk of not being conducted due to COVID-19,” the report states.

DOL OIG adds that miners with preexisting health conditions, such as respiratory disease, “are especially vulnerable” to COVID-19.

The report is part of a collection of reports from OIGs overseeing agencies involved in the pandemic response released by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

COVID-19 pandemic: Bipartisan bill would direct MSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard


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Washington — Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the Senate would require the Mine Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency temporary standard within seven days of enactment, followed by the issuance of a final rule.

The COVID-19 Mine Worker Protection Act (S. 3710) – introduced May 13 by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) – would forbid mine operators from retaliating against mine workers who report infection control problems to employers or any public authority.

According to May 14 press release from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), one of the bill’s seven co-sponsors, the legislation also would require:

  • Mine operators to provide workers with personal protective equipment.
  • MSHA to issue a permanent comprehensive infectious disease standard within two years.
  • MSHA to track, analyze and investigate mine-related COVID-19 infection data – in coordination with OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – to make recommendations and guidance to protect workers.

“Miners have put their health at risk for years to power our country,” Brown said in the release. “Now they’re facing more danger, as working conditions put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.”

MSHA says it has received a “high volume” of questions about COVID-19. In response, the agency published an information sheet with recommendations for miners and mine operators to help prevent the spread of the disease, along with a list of actions MSHA has taken during the ongoing pandemic.

Miners and mine operators are encouraged to stay home when sick, avoid close contact with others, wash hands frequently, and regularly clean and disinfect equipment and commonly touched surfaces.

The bill – co-sponsored by five other Senate Democrats and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on May 13.

MSHA – Mine Fatality #8

MINE FATALITY – On June 1, 2020, a contract truck driver died after falling from the top of his trailer.  The victim received first aid/CPR at the scene and passed away after being transported to a local hospital.

scene of accident where the driver died after falling from the top of his trailer
Best Practices: 
  • Discuss work procedures; identify all potential hazards to do the job safely.
  • Train everyone to recognize fall hazards and ensure that safe work procedures are discussed and established.
  • Include safe truck tarping requirements in site-specific hazard training.
  • Provide truck tarping safe access facilities where needed.
  • Provide an effective fall arrest secure anchorage system.  Ensure that people wear and attach fall protection connecting devices where there is a danger of falling.
  • Use automatic tarp deploying systems to prevent people from working from heights.
Additional Information:

This is the 8th fatality reported in 2020, and the third classified as “Slip or Fall of Person.”

MSHA cancels clarification letter on escapeway requirements for underground mines


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Washington — After weighing public and stakeholder input, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has rescinded a program policy letter intended to clarify requirements for providing emergency escapeways for underground metal and nonmetal miners, determining that the clarification “is not needed.”

According to a notice published in the May 27 Federal Register, MSHA made its decision after considering comments on the letter – initially published in the July 29 Federal Register – and feedback received during an Oct. 10 public stakeholder meeting.

The agency states that under 30 CFR 57.11050:

  • “Every mine shall have two or more separate, properly maintained escapeways to the surface from the lowest levels which are so positioned that damage to one shall not lessen the effectiveness of the others. A method of refuge shall be provided while a second opening to the surface is being developed. A second escapeway is recommended, but not required, during the exploration or development of an ore body.”
  • “A method of refuge shall be provided” for miners to safely take shelter in the event they are unable to access the areas “when using the normal exit method.”

The letter notes that the refuge site “should be located near the miners so that they promptly and reliably” can enter, and encourages mine operators to confer with MSHA district managers on mine-specific conditions and factors when determining escape and evacuation plans

MSHA: Final rule on electronic detonators in metal and nonmetal mines now in effect

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March 19, 2020

Washington — The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s direct final rule concerning advances in electronic detonators in metal and nonmetal mines has gone into effect, the agency announced March 18.

The agency first defined detonators in its regulations in 1979 as devices “containing a detonating charge that is used to initiate an explosive such as electric blasting caps and nonelectrical instantaneous or delay blasting caps.”

MSHA states it initially believed that definition provided a means for the “automatic inclusion” of new technology. In January 1991, the agency clarified that detonating cords are not included in the definition and divided detonators into two classes.

The final rule adds the words “electronic detonators” to its definitions in 30 CFR 56.6000 and 57.6000. It also includes a waiting period of at least 30 minutes for misfires of electronic detonators, or longer if the manufacturer recommends it (56.6310 and 57.6310). Additionally, electronic detonators are added to circuit testing rules (56.6407 and 57.6407) and for precautions during storms (57.6604).

The agency’s other explosive standards in 30 CFR 56 and 30 CFR 57 (Subparts E) still apply to electronic detonators.

“For those electronic detonator systems that the agency has reviewed, MSHA agrees with [the Institute of Makers of Explosives] that electronic detonators provide a working environment that is as safe or safer for miners compared to non electric and electric detonators because they provide for greater control of a blast,” the final rule states. “MSHA believes that recognizing electronic detonator systems as distinct from electric detonators will eliminate confusion over certain regulatory requirements.”

MSHA – Fatality Alert #7

MINE FATALITY – On May 2, 2020, a miner entered a dredged sand and gravel bin through a lower access hatch to clear an obstruction. The miner was clearing the blockage with a bar when the material inside the bin fell and engulfed him.

scene of accident where the victim was engulfed by material
Best Practices:
  1. Lock-out, tag-out. Never enter a bin until the supply and discharge equipment is locked out.
  2. Train miners to recognize and safely remove all potential hazards before beginning work and when clearing blocked hoppers.
  3. Equip bins 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.
  4. Follow manufacturer recommendations for clearing out blockages.
  5. Establish and discuss policies and procedures for safely clearing bins.
  6. Install a heavy screen (grizzly) to control the size of the material and prevent clogging.
Additional Information:

This is the 7th fatality reported in 2020, and the second classified as “Handling Material.”

Engulfment incident spurs MSHA safety alert on surge piles


Photo: Photo: Mine Safety and Health Administration

Arlington, VA — Prompted by a recent incident in which a coal mine bulldozer operator working on a surge pile of coal was engulfed and trapped in the machine’s cab when the pile collapsed, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert.

The operator was working near a load-out feeder location at the time the surge pile tumbled. MSHA contends the operator was uninjured because the bulldozer was equipped with high-strength glass that prevented coal from infiltrating the cab, as well as two self-contained self-rescuers, which supplied sufficient, breathable air during a two-hour rescue effort.

According to a 2019 Department of Labor video, surge pile incidents have claimed the lives of 19 miners since 1980. “In an accident, a bulldozer can suddenly fall into a hidden cavity, where the coal has bridged over an underground feeder,” the video says.

MSHA offers numerous best practices for mine operators and contractors to safely work on or near surge piles, including:

  • Prevent foot traffic on surge piles and provide adequate warning signs.
  • Provide adequate surge pile-related training to all workers, including specialization on alarm response, equipment needs, and rescue and recovery plans involving engulfed equipment.
  • Stock cabs with safety equipment, including self-contained self-rescuers, flashlights, cooling pads and drinking water.
  • Stay stable. Do not operate equipment directly over feeders, stay away from unstable drawhole edges and ensure bulldozers employ the “double blade” pushing method.
  • Use remote-controlled dozers on surge piles.
  • Be aware of surge pile conditions.

MSHA Fatality #6

MINE FATALITY – An over-the-road truck driver was found unresponsive near his bulk trailer, where it appears he fell from the top of the trailer. The driver was taken to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery; however, he passed away from his injuries.

scene of accident where the victim fell from the top of the trailer
  1. Provide a means to align bulk trailers under truck racks to assure the ramp is aligned correctly with the trailer’s lids so that miners have safe access. Alignment methods can include painted lines, concrete barriers, cameras and monitors, or sensors to indicate proper positioning.
  2. Wear proper footwear that is clean and in good condition.
  3. Examine work areas and routinely monitor work habits to ensure that workers follow safe work procedures.
  4. Identify and control all hazards associated with the work to be performed.
Additional Information:

This is the 6th fatality reported in 2020, and the second fatality classified as “Slip or Fall of Person”