1 Ky. coal min­ing death in 2018 was record low, re­port finds

Lexington Herald-Leader - - Bluegrass - BY BILL ESTEP [email protected]­ald-leader.com

Ken­tucky had one death in 2018 from an ac­ci­dent at a coal mine, a record low for the state, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Na­tion­wide, there were 27 fa­tal­i­ties at all types of mines, with 12 of those at coal mines and 15 at fa­cil­i­ties such as rock quar­ries, the agency an­nounced Tues­day.

That was the sec­ond­low­est num­ber of min­ing deaths ever, ac­cord­ing to MSHA.

The num­ber of coalmin­ing deaths in the na­tion the last decade has ranged from 48 in 2010, when a blast at the Up­per Big Branch mine in West Vir­ginia killed 29 min­ers, to a low of eight in 2016, ac­cord­ing to MSHA’s web­site.

Ken­tucky had recorded two mine deaths in sev­eral re­cent years, but had never fin­ished a year with a sin­gle fa­tal­ity.

Hu­bert Grubbs Jr., 29, died on March 28 when he got caught in a mov­ing con­veyor belt at the un­der­ground D-11 Pan­ther mine near Cum­ber­land, in Har­lan County, which was op­er­ated by Black jewel LLC, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral records.

The fa­tal ac­ci­dent hap­pened be­cause of safety lapses, fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Grubbs’ death in­volved what MSHA calls “pow­ered haulage,” which in­cludes mo­bile equip­ment and con­veyor belts that move coal or other ma­te­ri­als.

Those were the most com­mon types of ac­ci­dents in 2018, ac­count­ing for nearly half of all min­ing deaths, the agency said.

MSHA re­sponded with a cam­paign to ed­u­cate min­ers and mine op­er­a­tors on equip­ment haz­ards and sought in­for­ma­tion on tech­nol­ogy changes or prac­tices aimed at re­duc­ing haz­ards from such equip­ment, the agency said.

The an­nual fa­tal­ity to­tal does not count deaths from black lung, which is caused by in­hal­ing dust in coal mines. The dis­ease can take years to cause death.

The preva­lence of the dis­ease has spiked since 2000, es­pe­cially in Ken­tucky.

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