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Fatality at Virginia Quarry

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reported that on Sept. 21, 2016, a 52-year-old contract drill operator with 27 years of experience, was killed at Holston River Quarry Inc. in Virginia. The victim was performing maintenance on a truck-mounted rotary drill.

The victim was attempting to remove the spindle nut from the top of the drill head, while standing on the drilling deck. The victim was supporting a modified pipe wrench against the drill tower structure and applying torque to the drill head and spindle nut using machine drill rotate hydraulics by reaching into the operator’s compartment.

The drill operator, who was located in the swing radius of the wrench, was pinned by an unintended movement of the rotating wrench which pierced his abdomen. As the victim attempted to climb down an adjacent step ladder, he was observed falling to the ground and striking his head on a breakaway wrench, which was lying on the ground. The victim was transported to a hospital and underwent surgery. He died later that day as a result of his injuries.

This is the 13th fatality reported in calendar year 2016 in metal and nonmetal mining. As of this date in 2015, there were 15 fatalities reported in metal and nonmetal mining. This is the third fatality classified as machinery in 2016. There were four machinery accident classification fatalities in the same period in 2015.

MSHA recommends the following best practices to avoid machinery injuries and fatalities:

  • Ensure machine controls and safety devices are operating properly. Never over-ride, bypass, tie-down, or jumper out machine safety controls.
  • Provide emergency stop/shut-off switches, panic bars, dead man devices, tethers, slap bars, rope switches, two handed controls, spring loaded controls, etc. in easily accessible locations.
  • Provide guarding between controls and rotating equipment (i.e. drill steel).
    Incorporate written safe operating procedures into safety and training programs and follow the equipment manufacturers recommended procedures for the removal and replacement of machine parts.
  • Don’t use drill rotate hydraulics in combination with hand tools during maintenance and repair.
  • Do not place yourself in a position that will expose you to hazards while performing a task.