On July 25, a 59-year-old excavator operator, with 17 years of experience, was killed at Vulcan Materials Savannah Quarry in Tennessee. Prior to the accident, the victim was loading shot rock into haul trucks. While waiting for the haul trucks to return, the victim was separating out oversized rocks when the cab of his excavator was struck by falling material from the highwall.
This is the 10th fatality reported in calendar year 2016 in metal and nonmetal mining. As of this date in 2015, there were 12 fatalities reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the first fatality classified as fall of highwall in 2016. There was no fall of highwall accident classification fatalities in the same period in 2015.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration offers the following best practices to prevent highwall accidents:
- Operate excavators with the cab perpendicular to, and swinging away from, the highwall.
- Examine highwalls from as many perspectives as possible (bottom, sides and top/crest) while maintaining the safety of the examiner(s). Look for signs of cracking or other geologic discontinuities.
- Maintain access to the top of highwalls so that thorough examinations can be conducted.
- Perform supplemental examinations of highwalls, banks, benches and sloping terrain in the working area during and following inclement weather.
- Immediately remove all personnel exposed to hazardous ground conditions, barricade and/or post signs to prevent entry, and promptly correct unsafe conditions.
- Use mining methods that ensure highwall stability and safe working conditions.
- Look, Listen and Evaluate your highwall and pit conditions daily, especially after each rain, freeze or thaw.
- Establish and discuss safe work procedures for working near highwalls. Be your own examiner and find hazards before they find you.
Refer to PIB P10-09 “Safety Precautions for Operating Rubber Tired and Track-Mounted Excavators” for additional information regarding hazards related to operating excavators at surface mines.