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.

Engulfment incident spurs MSHA safety alert on surge piles

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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.

COVID-19 pandemic: Construction workers subject of new OSHA alert

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Photo: strods/iStockphoto

Washington — Aimed at protecting construction workers from exposure to COVID-19, a new OSHA safety alert lists measures employers should take during the pandemic.

Released April 21, the alert calls on employers to encourage workers to report any safety or health concerns and stay home when sick. Additionally, the agency recommends that in-person meetings, including toolbox talks and safety meetings, be kept as short as possible. Organizations should limit the number of workers in attendance and make sure they remain at least 6 feet apart from each other at all times.

Employers also should ensure alcohol-based wipes are used to clean tools and equipment – especially those that are shared – before and after use. Workers tasked with cleaning should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper use and any restrictions.

Physical distancing protocol should be followed inside work trailers or when visitors are onsite, and physical contact should be avoided.

Organizations are advised to clean and disinfect jobsite toilets on a regular basis, and ensure hand-sanitizer dispensers are filled. Any other frequently touched items such as door pulls should be cleaned and disinfected.

Other recommendations:

  • Educate workers on the proper way to put on, take off, maintain and use/wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Use cleaning products listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as effective against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.
  • Promote personal hygiene. If workers don’t have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Continue to use “normal control measures,” including personal protective equipment, to safeguard workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.

The alert is available in English and Spanish.

MSHA Safety Alert – Surge Piles

On March 5, 2020, an operator was using a Caterpillar D8T bulldozer on a coal surge pile near a load-out feeder location when the surge pile collapsed, engulfing the bulldozer and trapping the operator inside the cab. The operator was uninjured because the bulldozer was equipped with:

  • High-strength glass that prevented coal from entering the operator’s cab; and
  • Two Self Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSRs) which provided the equipment operator sufficient breathable air throughout the two-hour rescue effort.​

MSHA urges all mine operators and contractors to be aware of hazards associated with operating equipment on or near coal surge piles and to follow the safety practices listed below.

Safety Alert for Working On or Near Surge Piles

Best Practices for Working On or Near Surge Piles

  • Install high-strength glass certified to support at least 40 psi with a frame and supports designed to withstand the added loading.
  • Stock cabs with safety equipment. Securely store additional SCSRs, flashlights, cooling packs and drinking water in equipment cabs.
  • Mark feeder locations and provide visual indicators to identify active feeders.
  • Stay stable. Don’t operate equipment directly over feeders, stay away from the unstable drawhole edges and ensure that dozers use the “double blade” pushing method by leaving the first blade of material short of the drawhole edge and bumping it into the drawhole using the second blade of material.
  • Always keep the dozer blade between the cab and the feeder.
  • Provide gates on feeders or ensure that coal cannot discharge when a feeder is not operable.
  • Be aware of surge pile conditions such as excessive material settling in piles that have been idled, excessive compaction of material layers overlying the feeders, and freezing weather conditions that create hidden cavities when the material is “bridged” over a feeder.
  • Make sure the equipment operator can remotely shut-down the stacker and feeder belts from the equipment cab.
  • Install closed-circuit TV monitors so feeder operators can observe conditions and activities on the surge pile and provide two-way radio communication.
  • Prevent foot traffic on surge piles and provide adequate warning signs.
  • Use remote-controlled dozers on surge piles.
  • Provide adequate training for all surge pile workers to include specialized training on alarm response, equipment needs and rescue and recovery plans involving engulfed equipment.

Safety Alert – Electro-Hydraulic Lifts

Use qualified welders. Inspect welds and metal components. Train users.

Damaged or defective welds on aerial lifts have caused two fatalities in the mining industry since 2001.

  • A mechanic died while being lowered in an electro-hydraulic aerial lift. A weld splice fractured on a recently repaired arm of the lift, causing the arm to strike the victim in the head (Figure 1). The weld failed because of poor weld quality from an improper repair.
  • A welder died while being lowered in an electro-hydraulic aerial lift when the lift arm catastrophically fractured at a critical weld connecting the arm support to its lift cylinder (Figure 2). Undetected cracks existed in the weld and the surrounding metal prior to failure.
Electric hydraulic lifts use of qualified weilders, inspection welds and metal components includign training users
Best Practices:

Best Practices to Prevent the Mechanical Failure of Welded Connections
Prevent accidents by following proper welding procedures and performing regular inspections for damages or defects.

  • Only qualified welders should perform all welding.
  • Determine the service/fatigue life of mechanical systems or parts by consulting with the manufacturer.
  • Inspect welds following installation and repairs, and periodically during service life.
  • Train users in the proper operation of lifts – including not exceeding their design capacity.
  • Routinely examine metal components for signs of weakness, corrosion, fatigue cracks, bends, buckling, deflection, missing connectors, etc.
  • Use nondestructive test methods to detect cracks that may be indistinguishable to the eye.
  • Take cracked mechanical components out of service immediately. Small cracks can quickly grow and lead to catastrophic fracture.

MSHA issues safety alert on underground diesel equipment fires

Photo: Alfio Manciagli/iStockphoto

Prompted by a fire on a diesel-powered water car in May, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert addressing fire hazards associated with diesel equipment in underground mines.

According to MSHA, the incident occurred when the vehicle’s automatic and manually activated fire suppression systems failed to function properly. The vehicle had been converted to a water transport vehicle from a personnel carrier. The systems malfunctioned because an actuation hose had been damaged as a result of routing through the engine compartment. Crews extinguished the blaze using a fire hose from the water system near the conveyor belt drive. No miners were injured in the incident.

MSHA offers best practices for fire safety awareness. Among them:

  • Conduct thorough preoperational inspections and perform required maintenance. Identify and correct obvious fire hazards such as accumulations of combustible fluids or grease, leaking hydraulic and coolant hoses or fuel supply lines, and cracked or blistered flanges on hydraulic and coolant hoses and connections at the hydraulic pump.
  • Install audible and visible alarms in the cab to alert equipment operators to fires.
  • Ensure proper design, installation and maintenance of manual and automatic fire suppression systems. Follow National Fire Protection Association standards for dry and wet chemical extinguishing systems – NFPA 17 and 17A, respectively – as well as manufacturer recommendations.
  • Route actuation and expellant gas hoses away from the engine compartment, heat sources, electrical wires and moving parts, or ensure they have a heat-resistant fire jacket.
  • Ensure actuation hoses mounted to removable covers are secured in such a manner to prevent damage from wear and potential contact with heat sources.

Electrical Safety Alert

Don’t rush. Lockout/Tagout. Control hazards.

Electricity has killed three people in the mining industry since August 7, 2019.

  • An electrician contacted an energized component of a 4,160 VAC electrical circuit while adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors.
  • A contract electrician contacted an energized 120 VAC conductor while working inside a fire suppression system’s electrical panel.
  • An electrician contacted an exposed energized connector while troubleshooting a 995 VAC flooded bed scrubber motor circuit on-board a continuous mining machine.

Prevent Electrical Accidents:

  • Lockout/Tagout circuits before working on electrical equipment.
  • Don’t rush. Never work alone. Talk to coworkers and confirm your plan is safe.
  • Identify and control all hazardous energy sources before conducting any task and follow safe work procedures.
    • Open the circuit breaker or load break switch to de-energize the incoming power cables or conductors
    • Open the visual disconnect to confirm incoming power is off
    • Lockout/Tagout the visual disconnect
    • Ground the de-energized conductors
  • Train miners on equipment they may use.
  • Electricians must know how to de-energize and disconnect electrical systems and equipment.
  • Always troubleshoot without power first.
  • If you must troubleshoot an energized circuit, use properly rated personal protective equipment to prevent hazards. For example, use electrically rated gloves, insulated blankets or mats, and polycarbonate barriers to prevent accidental contact with energized components.

Safety Alert – Electrical Accidents

The mining industry has experienced three electrical fatalities since August 7, 2019. The first fatal accident occurred when a 42-year-old electrician with 15 years of mining experience contacted an energized component of a 4,160 VAC electrical circuit. The victim was in the preparation plant’s Motor Control Center (MCC) adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the 4,160 VAC panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors. Read more»