MSHA Issues Warning to Drill Operators

"Failing to follow safe drilling practices has tragic consequences, as we've sadly seen," said Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main. "Paying attention to safe job procedures, staying clear of rotating drill and augers, complying with drilling safety standards, and following best practices will reduce the risk of death or injury."

MSHA warned late last week that rotating machinery exposes miners to risks of entanglement and serious injury or death, with an alert about the risk faced by operators who fail to follow safe drilling practices. In April 2014, a 53-year-old miner died in an underground gold mine in Elko County, Nev., after his clothing caught in a jackleg drill, and in 2012 a 30-year-old contract driller at a shale quarry in Ulster County, N.Y.,died while trying to thread a new drill steel manually; the drill head rotated and entangled him, according to MSHA.

It reported that at least seven workers have died in metal and nonmetal mining accidents involving drills since 2002. This prompted MSHA's drill entanglement safety alert to the mining community on Aug. 10, 2016. "Failing to follow safe drilling practices has tragic consequences, as we've sadly seen," said Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main. "Paying attention to safe job procedures, staying clear of rotating drill and augers, complying with drilling safety standards, and following best practices will reduce the risk of death or injury."

MSHA noted that drill operators often work alone and remotely. MSHA urges drillers to consider these before beginning drill operations:

  • Examine the drill and surrounding work area.
  • Eliminate all tripping hazards.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting or bulky clothing when working around drilling machinery.
  • Avoid using objects that could entangle in – and be thrown by – moving or rotating parts.
  • Stay clear of augers and drill stems in motion.
  • Never manually thread the drill steel while the drill head rotates.
  • Drill from a position with good footing and access to the controls.
  • Ensure that machine controls and safety devices such as emergency shutdowns operate effectively.
  • Never nullify or bypass machine control safety equipment.
  • Place emergency shutdown devices – such as panic bars, slap bars, rope switches, two-handed controls – in easily accessible locations.

According to MSHA, the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers' Safety Committee suggested this alert, which is available in Spanish here.

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