Crushed Kentucky Miner Not Wearing Safety Device

December 22, 2016

Federal investigators have concluded that a worker crushed to death by a machine at a Kentucky coal mine wasn’t wearing an emergency shut-off device, and that his managers had not provided a way to securely attach it.

Managers at Webster County Coal’s Dotiki Mine knew about the problem but didn’t address it, potentially exposing the company to a higher fine, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, citing a U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration report.

Nathan Phillips, 36, was pinned to a wall while trying to move a continuous-mining machine in January. His transmitter, designed to turn off the machine if he got too close, had been on the floor of the mine for about a half-hour before he was killed, the report said.

The company, which is controlled by Alliance Resource Partners LP, also failed to make sure miners didn’t work or travel in the danger zone close to the 65-ton machines while they were being moved, MSHA said in the report.

Operators stand nearby using remote-control devices to control the machine as it grinds out coal.

The system is designed to activate a warning light and sound if the operator gets too close, but the foreman, Keith Brown II, and other miners said they were aware of earlier occasions when Phillips either dropped the transmitter or it had fallen out of the pouch while he was operating the machine, according to the report.

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