Alpha cited in prep plant death
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal investigators have cited Alpha Natural Resources in the May death of a longtime mechanic at the company's Liberty coal-processing plant in Boone County.
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited Alpha's Independence Coal Co. subsidiary in the death of Clyde Dolin, 57, of Danville. Dolin was killed May 17 when he fell near an elevator at the facility, located south of Uneeda along Robinson Creek.
Dolin had 37 years of mining experience, including 13 at the Liberty facility.
At the time of the accident, Dolin was preparing to use a torch to cut and remove a 12-inch steel I-beam that was located above the 3rd floor of the preparation plant. The beam was being moved to prevent it from interfering with the movement of material and supplies being hoisted into the facility.
In a report made public Tuesday, MSHA concluded that the accident occurred "because of management's failure to ensure equipment was used and maintained in safe working order." Dolin was using an extension portion of a ladder without the ladder base, contrary to the manufacturer's recommendations.
MSHA investigators said that improper ladder use had become a common practice at the facility, and that an Alpha foreman, James Maynard, was present at the work area immediately prior to the accident and helped steady the ladder while Dolin climbed to perform the work.
"Maynard allowed the ladders to be used despite their condition and despite the presence of conspicuous warning labels attached to the ladder extensions," the MSHA report said. "Maynard engaged in aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence."
MSHA cited the company for improper use of the ladder, failing to provide a safe means of access to the beam Dolin was to cut, and not requiring Dolin to wear a safety belt and line while working in the elevated location.
The state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, which regulates mine foremen in West Virginia, did not issue any personal citations to Maynard following its investigation of Dolin's death, said office spokeswoman Leslie Fitzwater.
Earlier this year, state officials issued "individual personal assessments," or IPAs, to five Alpha foremen at the company's Kingston No. 2 Mine in Fayette County. Agency inspectors allegedly ignored dozens of safety violations, including the kind of poor mine wall stability that led to the death of a worker in March.
Ted Pile, a spokesman for Alpha, said the company has not decided whether it will appeal the MSHA citations related to the Liberty plant fatality.
"The Liberty plant provided fall protection equipment and training to its employees before the accident occurred, and has since added more equipment such as locating fall protection harnesses on each level of the plant," Pile said. "Proper equipment and instruction reduces the risk that a similar fall will occur in the future."
Independence Coal, the Alpha subsidiary that operates the Liberty plant, was among the units that Alpha inherited when it purchased Massey Energy in June 2011. Alpha officials have promoted their company safety program, "Running Right," as the solution to improving health-and-safety performance, especially at the former Massey operations.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1702.