- The mining operation has more than 350 employees, 300 of which work underground.
- The mining operation has been subject two times to MSHA’s special impact inspections. These inspections occur each month and are reserved for a dozen or so mining operations that need extra scrutiny because their past history breaking mine safety laws. MSHA implemented the impact inspection program following the deadly explosion in 2010 at the Upper Big Branch mine which killed 29 coal miners.
- The mining operation has already received 466 MSHA citations this year. Last year it received 625 MSHA citations, including one order to remove workers from the mine because of an imminent-danger situation.
- The mining operation’s lost-time injury rate in 2012 was almost 24 percent higher than the national average. This figure does not include seven serious injuries suffered by independent contractors.
The preliminary report on Larry Schwartz’s death indicates that he was struck by a mobile piece of equipment (a shuttle car) which fatally pinned him against the coal rib (the wall of the mine.) This is the type of incident that could be prevented had proximity detection equipment been installed on the mobile equipment. (As I wrote last week, the mining industry is not eager to have a regulation requiring these life-saving devices.)
Ellen Smith continued to dig and came up with this telling piece of information about Five Star Mining, the Prosperity mine’s controlling company. The firm’s safety director Mark Eslinger is on record in November 2011 saying that proximity detection devices could give miners a false sense of security. I bet that Larry Schwartz’s wife, Lori, daughters and son, would gladly exchange that false sense of security to still have alive their husband and father. Smith found the Five Star Mining’s opinion about proximity detection devices in comments submitted to MSHA on proposed rule about proximity-detection devices for continuous mining machines.