An accident that killed a coal miner in Western Kentucky last year happened because the company failed to put adequate procedures in place for propping up suspended equipment, according to a report of the investigation.
Rickey A. Thorpe, 29, was killed when an 18-ton piece of equipment fell and crushed him, according to a recent report from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The fatality occurred Sept. 16 at the Onton No. 9 mine in Webster County, an underground mine operated by Sebree Mining LLC. The company is a subsidiary of Alliance Resource Partners LP.
Thorpe’s death was one of only two at Kentucky coal mines in 2015, tying the record for the lowest number of fatalities.
There have already been two deaths at Kentucky mines this year.
Thorpe, an electrician, was helping repair a valve on a continuous mining machine when the accident occurred, according to the report on MSHA’s investigation of his death.
Workers had propped up the heavy cutter head boom on the machine so they could get under it.
However, they had used a stack of eight or 10 wooden boards each 2 inches thick, instead of heavier materials or the manufacturer’s approved steel chocks, according to the MSHA report.
As Thorpe leaned under the suspended boom, the boards gave way with a loud pop and it fell and crushed him, the report said.
Workers desperately tried to lift the boom with other pieces of equipment, but it was too heavy. It took nearly 90 minutes to lift it and pull out Thorpe’s body, the report said.
MSHA said the mine operator failed to train Thorpe in the hazards of working under suspended loads and had not established adequate blocking protocols to be used when working under suspended machinery.
The agency issued citations alleging violations by the mine operator, including one listed as an “unwarrantable failure” to comply with the law.
That was because a supervisor saw Thorpe working in an unsafe condition and allowed it, according to the report.
The report said that in 2014, the rate of days lost to non-fatal injuries at the mine was 4.19, compared to a national rate of 3.31 for similar mines.
The mine is currently listed as non-producing.