Mining Machine Operator Fatally Electrocuted

The worker had 21 years of mining experience.

A 38-year-old highwall mining machine operator is the second fatality in the coal mining industry of 2018.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a brief report detailing the circumstances that led to the worker’s death.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the operator, who had 21 years of experience in the mining industry, was performing electrical work on a system that supplies power to a mining machine. At some point, he came into contact with a 7,200 volt energized circuit and was electrocuted to death.

MSHA recommended workers perform the following steps before performing electrical work:

  1. Locate the circuit breaker or load break switch away from the enclosure and open it to de-energize the incoming power cable(s) or conductors.
  2. Locate the visual disconnect away from the enclosure and open it to provide visual evidence that the incoming power cable(s) or conductors have been de-energized.
  3. Lock-out and tag-out the visual disconnect.
  4. Ground the de-energized conductors.

After an investigation, the agency also released these best practices to prevent similar incidents from occurring:

  • Lock-out and tag out the electrical circuit yourself and NEVER rely on others to do this for you.
  • Wear properly-rated and well-maintained electrical gloves when troubleshooting or testing energized circuits. After the electrical problem has been found, follow the proper steps before performing electrical work.
  • Use properly-rated electrical meters and non-contact voltage testers to ensure electrical circuits have been de-energized.
  • Install warning labels on line side terminals of circuit breakers and switches stating that the terminal lugs remain energized when the circuit breaker or switch is open.
  • Electrical work must be performed by a qualified electrician or someone trained to do electrical work under the direct supervision of a qualified electrician. 



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