Rock drilling company settles with feds in Ulster mine worker death

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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.” 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.