Thursday, November 02, 2006

OMHST Aracoma Report Out

AP appears to be first out of the box with a story:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State investigators said missing walls and mismatched and faulty firefighting equipment contributed to the deaths of two miners in a fire last January.

The blaze, which broke out in a conveyor belt, filled the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine with smoke, and the miners died after becoming separated from their crew.

Investigators found the that fire started from the friction of a misaligned belt in a conveyor that carries coal out of the shaft.

The Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training found that the mine lacked "stoppings" - walls typically constructed of blocks to seal off parts of a mine and control air flow - and that their absence let smoke enter the main escape route.

Also, water lines for firehoses and sprinklers were shut off, and hoses could not be connected because the fittings did not match, the investigators said.

The agency issued 169 violation notices and recommended withdrawal or suspension of seven miners' certificates, the report said.

The Charleston Gazette was not far behind:

Massey's Aracoma Coal Co. subsidiary was cited for seven violations that state investigators said contributed to the fatal fire.

Those included:

| Allowing air to flow into the mine in the opposite direction from spelled out in approved ventilation plans, sending clean air away from the face where miners worked.

| Not maintaining fire hose equipment in good working condition, and not providing a water supply into the area of the conveyor belt where the fire occurred.

| Not keeping the mine's primary escapeway isolated from the rest of the mine. A missing piece of mine wall allowed smoke to enter the escapeway, forcing miners who were attempting to escape to find an alternate route. During this effort, Bragg and Hatfield became separated from the other miners.

| Not maintaining the mine's main conveyor belt in good working order, in that improperly installed components caused the belt to run out of alignment, creating friction that led to the fire.

| Not notifying the crew that Bragg and Hatfield worked on about the fire in a timely manner to allow them to quickly evacuate the mine.

In other words, it took multiple serious failures to cause this tragedy. These stories describe a devastating combination of safety protections to have been neglected all at at the same time.


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