In the wake of three deaths over the past year involving mine equipment and machinery, the Mine Health and Safety Administration has issued a safety alert to prevent mining accidents: “Blocking Against Motion.”

MSHA said a miner died when he was between the cutter boom and the pan of a continuous mining machine when the cutter head collapsed. Another miner died after he became entangled in a moving conveyor belt while changing out a hold up roller. The third miner was killed when the hydraulic pressure of a diesel front end loader released, pinning the miner between the bottom of the machine and the machine floor.

Employers and employees should consider the following best practices from MSHA:

  • Identify hydraulic leaks and mechanical damage by conducting examinations from safe locations, verifying the release of all stored energy before starting repairs, and making certain repairs comply with manufacturer recommendations.
  • Never work under an unsupported load and never depend on hydraulics to support a load.
  • Never conduct work under machinery or equipment that has been raised until the machinery or equipment has been securely blocked in position.
  • Use a lifting device compatible with the load being lifted and make certain blocking material is “competent, substantial and adequate” to support and stabilize the load. Always use manufacturers’ safety devices or features for securing components against motion and secure assemblies that rotate to prevent movement.
  • Never do work on a moving conveyor belt. Always lock and tag out belts before conducting maintenance or repairs.
  • Never perform repairs or maintenance on machinery until the power is off and the machinery is blocked against motion, except when machinery motion is necessary to make adjustments.
  • Finally, conduct a Risk Assessment to evaluate pivot points and ask, “What can happen?”