HAZARD – A surface mine in Perry County was one of six Kentucky mines cited by the Mine Safety and Health Administration in February during the agency’s monthly impact inspections.
Frasure Creek’s No. 6 surface mine in the northern section of the county received 22 citations during the inspection, which included violations ranging from a haul truck without a portable fire extinguisher to a build-up of combustible oil on a excavator.
In total, MSHA issued 253 citations and orders during their inspections at 15 mines, which included two metal/nonmetal mines. Of the coal mines, 235 citations and eight orders were issued.
Five of the coal mines were selected in part because of frequent hazard complaints, according to a release from MSHA. Investigations of 20 anonymous complaints between March 1, 2011 and March 1, 2012 at these five mines resulted in citations being issued when allegations in 12 of the complaints proved true.
MSHA began their impact inspections in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, and includes mines that have a “poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, including high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; and adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation.”
Several of last months’ inspections, including the one in Perry County, were conducted at surface mines that were spurred on by a “recent rash of fatalities at coal surface facilities,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
Another example from last month, an impact inspection was conducted during the day shift on February 9 at Clintwood Elkhorn Mining, Inc.’s Laurel Branch Surface Mine in Hurley, Va.
The inspection team issued 32 citations, 22 of which were designated as significant and substantial. Upon arriving at the mine, MSHA inspectors reviewed its examination records and inspected highwalls, explosive magazines and 33 pieces of equipment. They issued 11 citations for accumulations of combustible materials – including oil, hydraulic fluids and/or coal dust – on the engine compartments of front end loaders, excavators, dozers and trucks.
Laurel Branch also failed to maintain effective drill dust control on three drills used in the coal seam pit. The inspector observed large plumes of dust emitting from the doors on the dust box, between the drill steel and chip deflector, and from the flap of the broken drill skirt. These conditions exposed the powder crew, located 40 feet away, to high silica rock dust as well as the risk of developing silicosis and other respiratory impairments.
The operator was cited four times for not properly maintaining dry chemical fire suppression systems and fire extinguishers in a usable and operative condition on dozers. Laurel Branch relied upon its contractor, Logan Corp., to properly check these fire suppression systems. As a result, MSHA cited the contractor twice for failure to examine and maintain firefighting equipment. These conditions, in combination with heat generated by engine, transmission, battery and fuel pump components, exposed mobile equipment operators to fire and smoke inhalation hazards.