MSHA Issues $220,000 Lockout/Tagout Penalty

MSHA started 2008 with a bang by issuing a $220,000 lockout/tagout penalty Jan. 2 against Perry County Coal Corp. in connection with an electrical incident last February at its E4-1 Mine in Hazard, Ky. The agency said a miner received electrical burns while attempting to re-install a high-voltage splice box. "A flagrant violation of the mine safety laws intended to prevent this type of accident directly contributed to the accident," said Richard E. Stickler, MSHA's chief. "MSHA will not hesitate to assess stiff penalties against coal companies that fail to comply with safety and health regulations."

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 MINER Act allows a civil penalty of up to $220,000 for each violation assessed as flagrant.

MSHA said the incident happened after the shift section foreman asked that the high-voltage circuit to the mechanized mining unit be de-energized to allow installation of an additional length of high-voltage cable via a splice box. Once it was installed, the victim, an electrician, telephoned the mine foreman and requested that the circuit to the MMU be re-energized, which caused a nearby power source to fail. "Workers assumed the cable had a fault, which they quickly repaired. When the victim began reinstalling the cable into the splice box, the power became energized. Although he wore rubber gloves, he received burns on his right wrists and left index finger. He was treated for shock, then transported to the surface and taken to the hospital for further medical treatment," according to the agency.

The mine operator, which is owned by the TECO Coal subsidiary of Tampa-based TECO Energy. It has 30 days after receiving the MSHA proposed assessment to pay or contest the penalty before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.

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