Friday, April 14, 2017

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Rock drilling company settles with feds in Ulster mine worker death

SAUGERTIES – North American Quarry and Construction Services, a contractor company hired by Mt. Marion Pit and Mill in November 2012, when a 30-year-old driller was killed while manually loaded a drill, has agreed to settle with the US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and pay $360,000 in penalties.

Stephen Wickham was killed on November 1, 2012 when he became entangled in the rotating drill apparatus. The MSHA found that the accident occurred due to contract management’s failure to implement policies and procedures to ensure that drillers stay clear of the equipment during loading operations.

Wickham had approximately six months of drilling experience and did not receive effective task training addressing the safe work procedures for loading a drill steel and the potential hazards associated with the task,” the federal investigation report concluded.

The shale operation involves drilling blasting holes and packing them with explosives. After detonation, the loose material is loaded into trucks, transported to a processing plant and turned into construction aggregate.

After investigation following the fatal incident, federal investigators determined Wickham “did not receive task training regarding procedures to safely load drill steels.”

Patrick Dalin is a labor department attorney who worked on the case.

“This case in particular points how important it is to train miners for the hazardous tasks they are assigned to perform and miners should not have to risk their lives to earn a living,” Dalin said.

Contract management also required drillers to work alone where hazardous conditions existed and they could not communicate with others, could not be heard or could not be seen while working in the quarry.

MSHA also determined the company intentionally removed an emergency-stop switch from the drill before the accident.

As part of the settlement, North American Quarry accepted three flagrant violations and one “high” negligence violation. A flagrant violation is defined as “a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury.”

The contractor’s foreman also agreed to pay $6,000 in penalties because investigators found that the way he trained the deceased miner to load the steel contributed to the accident.

Mt. Marion Pit and Mill is owned and operated by Northeast Solite Corporation. At the time of the accident, North American Quarry was a subsidiary of the Austin Power Company.

 


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