Excavating rock from the Mt. Marion Pit and Mill, a common shale operation in Ulster County, N.Y., involves a drilling and blasting operation. After detonation, the loose material is loaded into haul trucks, transported to a processing plant and turned into construction aggregate.
On Nov. 1, 2012, a 30-year-old driller employed by contractor North American Quarry and Construction Services LLC, attempted to manually load a threaded drill steel into the mast of a drilling machine at the pit, when he became entangled in the rotating drill steel and suffered fatal injuries.
An investigation followed and, on the eve of the trial between the contractor and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), North American Quarry and Construction Services decided to settle and withdraw its contest of the violations.
North American Quarry agreed to pay $360,000 in penalties and accept three flagrant violations and one “high” negligence violation. A flagrant violation is defined as “a reckless or repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory safety and health standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injury.” The contractor’s foreman also agreed to pay $6,000 in penalties because investigators found that the way he trained the deceased miner to load the steel contributed to the accident.
MSHA also determined that the company intentionally removed an emergency-stop switch from the drill prior to the accident. The agency found North American Quarry assigned the driller to work alone – amid hazardous conditions – and without adequate contact or communication with others. He was the only North American Quarry employee working at the mine when the incident occurred.
“Miners should not have to risk their lives to earn a living,” said Jeffrey S. Rogoff, regional solicitor for the department in New York. “This case demonstrates how important it is to train miners for the hazardous tasks they are assigned to perform.”
“The Mine Safety and Health Administration believes that this settlement promotes our mission to provide the nation’s miners with a safe and healthful work environment,” said Patricia W. Silvey, deputy assistant secretary for mine safety and health.
Mt. Marion Pit and Mill is owned and operated by Northeast Solite Corp. At the time of the accident, North American Quarry was a subsidiary of the Austin Powder Co.
This matter was litigated by Patrick Dalin of the department’s regional Office of the Solicitor in New York.