News Release

Please note:  As of January 20, 2017, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

MSHA urges mine operators to follow regulations and ensure safe practices, reminds miners of 1-800-746-1553 hotline to report hazards

Alert follows three fatalities over Oct. 4th weekend

ARLINGTON, Va. — Following three coal mine fatalities during Oct. 4-6, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration is urging the mining industry to step up its compliance with safety and health regulations under the Mine Safety and Health Act and other applicable laws. Two fatalities occurred in underground mines in West Virginia and Illinois, and one fatality occurred at a surface mine in Wyoming.

At the McElroy mine in West Virginia, a longwall maintenance foreman was killed on Oct. 4 while assisting in setting up the panline on a new longwall face. The victim was standing in the face conveyor, facing the tailgate side of the section, when the accident occurred. A pulley was attached to a section of the pan line/face conveyor structure and a scoop was being used to pull the face conveyor chain. The sheave failed, came loose and struck the victim in the back of the head.

A fatality occurred Oct. 5 at the Pattiki mine in Illinois involving a golf cart used for underground transportation. The victim was in the golf cart when the accident occurred. The golf cart rolled over and pinned the victim underneath it.

At the Bridger Coal mine in Wyoming, a dozer operator was killed Oct. 6 when the dozer went over a 150-foot highwall in the early hours of Sunday morning. When the victim did not report in at the end of his regular shift, the operator began to search and found the dozer and victim at the bottom of the highwall.

"Three miners killed on three consecutive days is extremely troubling," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The fact that that this occurred over the weekend, when there may be a greater expectation an MSHA inspector would not be present, is a red flag."

The coal mining industry has not had three consecutive days of fatal accidents in more than 10 years, Main said. The last time was Dec. 26-28, 2002, and also included a weekend.

Under the Mine Act, operators have the primary responsibility of protecting miners from safety and health hazards. MSHA will be issuing alerts on these three fatalities once more information is known, and will be communicating with coal mine operators and miners about the importance of and continuing responsibility to conduct examinations and other safety checks to find and fix hazards to protect miners.

During a lapse in appropriations MSHA continues to perform certain activities which, if not conducted, would significantly compromise the safety of human life in the nation's mines, such as targeted inspections at high-hazard mines and azard-specific inspections across the nation based upon conditions and practices that have recently caused death and serious injury.

MSHA reminds miners and mine operators that they may use the agency's toll-free "One Call Does it All" number to report accidents or hazardous conditions. That number is 1-800-746-1553. Callers can report hazardous conditions to MSHA anonymously if they choose.

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Jesse Lawder

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