Tuesday, August 01, 2006

37th Coal Miner Killed This Year

The 37th coal miner to die this year was killed Sunday at a at a Randolph County, West Virginia coal preparation plant, when a pressurized tire blew up as Jermey T. Heckler, 30, was welding and grinding on the rim.

This is not a "freak" accident:
Over the past 10 years, MSHA records list at least four similar fatal accidents in the nation’s metal and nonmetal mines.

In one of those four deaths, MSHA investigators faulted the company for not providing proper equipment for inflating tires. In another, the agency concluded that a supervisor “engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence” when he instructed a miner to cut a slot in a brake drum, which ignited gases in the adjacent tire.

During the Carter Roag plant’s most recent inspection, in February, MSHA cited Circle M Enterprises with four safety violations, including one for performing maintenance on raised equipment that had not yet been locked in place.
And the hazards are well-documented:
In a 1996 handbook on the dangers of working with mine vehicle tires, MSHA said that even a tire that has been deflated can explode under certain circumstances.

Heat can decompose the tire or rubber liner, creating an explosive mixture of gases.

“Tire assemblies should therefore never be welded, brazed or cut,” the MSHA booklet said. “The safest procedure is to never apply heat to any rim or rim/hub assembly that has an inflated or deflated tire mounted on it.
Thirty-seven coal miners have been killed on the job so far this year, the most since 2001, when 42 miners were killed. Thirty of those killed this year died underground. Twenty have been killed in West Virginia and 14 in Kentucky. At this time last year, ten miners had lost their lives.

In addition, 18 metal/non-metal miners have lost their lives this year, compared with 35 last year.