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State responds to mine guard death

By Ken Ward Jr., Staff writer

State inspectors have told a coal-mine security company to create a check-in system for its guards following the April drowning of a security supervisor at a Kanawha County coal-loading dock.

The state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training told Allied Barton Security to revise its comprehensive safety program to institute the mandatory check-in program so that management communicates with all guards at the beginning of their shifts, mid-way through their shifts, and any other time deemed necessary.

Eugene White, director of the office, said the move was intended to ensure the safety of coal industry security guards who often “sit somewhere in the mountains by themselves for hours” and to “make sure we don’t have a problem.”

The move by state mine inspectors was announced Thursday when White’s staff presented to the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety a report on a death of one of Allied Barton’s security guards.

The body of Tommy E. Reynolds, 58, of Powellton, was discovered in a sediment control pond early on the morning of April 18 at the Law River Co.’s LLC’s Crown Hill Dock facility near Hansford.

Investigators believe that Reynolds drove his pickup truck onto the top of a sediment pond berm, where it became stranded, according to a report made public at the board meeting.

“Based on evidence obtained and observations made during the investigation, Mr. Reynolds exited the stranded vehicle and fell into the sediment pond located on the left side of the truck and drowned,” the report said.

Reynolds had reported to work at about 4:30 p.m. on April 17 and was not heard from until his body was found at about 5:20 a.m. on April 18, the state report said.

The report said that the Medical Examiner found that Reynolds had a blood alcohol content of 0.27 percent at the time of this death. Investigators found an empty whiskey bottle in the cab of the truck, the report said.

State inspector McKennis Browning told board members that Allied Barton was cited by the state for not having a drug- and alcohol-testing program in place at the time of the incident. The state’s report did not mention that citation.

White, the state mine safety director, said that there are about two dozen mine security firms operating in West Virginia. They employ about 1,800 people, White said. Most of them have drug- and alcohol-testing programs in place, White said.

Browning said that Allied Barton was “one of those contractors that just fell through the cracks.”

Also Thursday, mine safety board member Ted Hapney, a United Mine Workers representative, urged the board to not finalize its own review of a November 2012 death at a CONSOL Energy coal-slurry impoundment in Marion County without first getting a report from the state Department of Environmental Protection on its examination of the site.

White had told board members that state mine safety officials have no regulations that govern impoundments, saying such issues are left to DEP and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Board member Terry Hudson said he wasn’t sure why the board should wait to hear from DEP if the state mine safety office has no rules on impoundments. Hudson said the incident was “truly the bailiwick” of DEP and MSHA, and not the board.

Hapney said he wanted to hear from DEP so the board could see if there were any new safety measures that could be adopted based on what happened at the CONSOL site.

Under state law, the board is charged with reviewing reports on fatal mining accidents and determining if new rules “are necessary to prevent the recurrence of such” fatalities.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.


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