Here’s Dave

In this issue, we feature an exclusive op-ed written by David G. Zatezalo, assistant secretary mine safety and health. As the head of MSHA, he has the important job of overseeing that agency’s enforcement efforts and industry outreach.

Dave and I have a few things in common. We are both affiliated with the mining industry; we both graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio (undergrad for me, grad school for him); and we both have a vested interest in seeing that every person who works in the aggregates industry goes home safe and sound at the end of the day.

Zatezalo identifies the category of powered haulage – including large surface equipment and belt conveyors – as responsible for an inordinate number of fatal accidents. Powered haulage accounted for half of the 28 fatalities recorded in 2017 and more than half of the 16 recorded so far this year.

Zatezalo’s message could not have come at a more critical time. When he sent his op-ed, there had been 14 fatalities in the mining industry (seven in metal/nonmetal). Since that time, two more have occurred, both powered haulage fatalities in the nonmetal sector.

  • On Aug. 8, a powered haulage accident occurred at Dry Creek Farms LLC, Marion County, Tenn. – a dimensional stone operation. Details have not been released.
  • On Aug. 22, a 29-year-old miner with one year of experience was fatally injured at a Haines & Kibblehouse aggregates plant while cleaning a snub pulley. The victim was working from an aerial lift located under the belt conveyor when he became entangled in the conveyor pulley.

To encourage input on how to prevent powered haulage accidents, MSHA has issued a formal Request for Information. Comments will be accepted until Dec. 24, 2018, at

The agency’s questions include:

  • Can proximity detection devices be used to prevent large mobile equipment such as haul trucks and front-end loaders from running over occupied vehicles?
  • How can we ensure seatbelt usage among equipment operators?
  • Can technology help ensure that workers performing work around belt conveyors are protected from injury and death?

I encourage you to participate and give MSHA the feedback it needs on this important topic.

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