MSHA Briefs Trainers on Plans to Stem Spike in M/NM Fatalities
Submitted by jsharpe on Thu, 05/22/2014 - 3:55pm
MSHA plans to step up enforcement in the wake of a spike in fatal accidents
in the Metal/Non-Metal (M/NM) sector, where 20 miners have died since last
To intervene in a trend that has produced nearly
a doubling of the fatality rate over the last 7½ months, M/NM
Administrator Neal Merrifield said the agency would be enlisting coal
inspectors to assist M/NM inspectors
to identify hazards and will issue imminent danger orders to withdraw
miners when hazards are identified.
In a conference call with trainers today (3-5-2014), Merrifield also
said the inspectorate, assisted by MSHA personnel representing small
and Educational Field
Services (EFS), would be engaging in walk-and-talk discussions with
miners to alert them to the fatalities and how to prevent them. The
will begin the week of June 2. He appealed to the trainers assist in
In response to a question, Merrifield said the agency would work with
operators to minimize downtime when meetings with miners are held.
Assistant Secretary Joe Main kicked off the 65-minute call by stating
its purpose is to begin an ongoing dialogue with trainers. He said such
will be held quarterly in conjunction with MSHA’s release of summaries
of M/NM fatalities that had occurred over the previous three months. “I
want this to be a regular quarterly discussion with our trainers,” Main
Although more than 300 persons responded to MSHA’s invitation to
participate in the call, Main said the agency does not have a complete
list of trainers or who they are training. He said an email would be
sent following the call asking for this information, as well as for feedback
on how to enhance training. He also requested anyone who did not respond
to the invitation to contact the agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We need your help to improve the quality of training of our miners across
the country,” he said.
Merrifield said analysts had poured over the fatality data in an effort
to understand more fully why the upswing was occurring. “Unfortunately,
what we’ve found is the fatals are in all different states, all different
commodities, all different types of jobs and all different types of accidents.” Nonetheless,
two things stand out, he said: inadequate workplace examinations and
task training. Regarding task training, the Administrator said investigators
have often found that task training was recorded, but the associated
was not being done when the fatal accident took place.
The bulk of the session was devoted to reviewing a PowerPoint presentation
on the accidents, conducted by Deputy M/NM Administrator Marvin Lichtenfels
and Mike Hancher, who runs M/NM’s accident investigation group.
Laying the groundwork for that discussion, Merrifield noted the fatalities
simply reflect accidents that kill miners year after year; e.g., failure
to deenergize and lock and tag out equipment or to wear personal protective
equipment. In addition, many of the alleged violations associated with
the incidents represent standards covered by the Rules to Live By fatality
prevention program. The common denominator in all the accidents is
that they were preventable, he said.
Lichtenfels called attention to a high number of fatalities in April,
saying miners are at heightened risk then because the mine is conducting
operations. Its corollary is October, another bad time because shutdown
activities are underway. He also spotlighted six supervisor fatalities
during the period and commented that contractor fatalities were “starting
to creep up.”
Lichtenfels also noted that only two of the fatalities
occurred at mines with a non-fatal days lost rate above the national
During his presentation, Hancher stressed the importance of miners
taking control of their work situation by, for example,deenergizing
locking and tagging out equipment before working on it. He described
an accident April 17 in which a truck driver was crushed by an excavator
he left his truck. “It’s classic, stay in your truck,” he
Following a short question-and-answer period in which several participants
asked for new training materials, including interactive tools, Jeff
Duncan made what turned out to be closing remarks. Duncan, who heads
Educational Policy & Development Directorate, indicated where his
small mines and EFS personnel will be focusing their attention during
While all training is important, task and hazard recognition training may
be the most important training that miners receive,” he remarked.
He noted that supervisors and experienced
miners, not professional trainers, often perform task training
to make certain
this training is effective. Individuals selected to task train
should have good communications skills and use checklists for each
include safe job procedures, hazard recognition and control measures.
The effectiveness of this training should be evaluated while it
is progress, upon completion and with follow-up later "to make sure," Duncan
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