Safety Watch


December 2, 2011

Keep Clear of Danger

Construct barricades and post signage to warn operators about dangerous conditions.

The accident: On May 3, 2008, a 51-year-old mine owner with 45 weeks of experience was fatally injured when the excavator he was operating fell into an 8-foot-deep sump hole. The owner/operator was attempting to clean a clogged ditch to drain water from the pit following heavy rains. The sump hole had previously been dug into the pit floor to drain water. The pit floor was covered by several feet of water, however, and the sump hole was not visible. The owner/operator was working alone when one of the excavator’s crawler tracks fell into the sump hole. The excavator fell on its side, trapping the miner inside the cab. His death was attributed to asphyxiation.

The bottom line: Upon learning of the accident from local media reports two days later, Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators inspected the site and found that all hazards were not identified to ensure safe performance of tasks. Warning signs — visible from all approaches — were not erected to warn of a hazard. Barricades had not been erected to prevent access to the hazardous conditions.

The applicable standard

30 CFR § 56.1009

Suspended loads.

Areas where health or safety hazards exist that are not immediately obvious to employees shall be barricaded, or warning signs shall be posted at all approaches. Warning signs shall be readily visible, legible, and display the nature of the hazard and any protective action required.

Best practices

• Examine working places, identify hazards, and assess and control risks. Be alert to changing conditions. Maintain a safe distance from the edge of excavations and slopes. If the safety of travelways cannot be positively determined, do not travel on them.

• Where hazards in the travelways are not clearly distinguishable or immediately obvious, install barriers, markers, or other warning devices to aid equipment operators and limit travel of mobile equipment.

• Ensure all miners are trained to recognize workplace hazards, specifically the limited visibility inherent to the operation of large equipment.

• Wear seat belts when operating self-propelled mobile equipment.

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