Miner Joseph L. Tagaban died from a mine blast due to Kensington Mine’s failure to adequately train workers on the examination of workplace hazards and on blast area avoidance, according to conclusions recently released by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Kensington Mine is owned by Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp.
Tagaban was struck and killed in September of 2011 by debris blasted through a bore hole. He’d worked at Kensington for a year and a half.
An initial report from the mine indicated the hole through which the blast propelled debris had been recently drilled. MSHA’s final report said the hole was already in place, but was not identified prior to the blast due to improper training of mine workers.
“An adequate examination to check the area for hazards or to identify the diamond drill hole was not conducted prior to initiating the blast,” according to MSHA’s report.
Kensington disputes this finding.
At the time of the blast, Tagaban stood beside a tractor uphill of a haulage ramp.
“He was approximately 200 feet from the blast site and in line with the drill hole when the blast was initiated,” according to MSHA’s report.
Tagaban was a blaster’s helper alongside Kasey Clarke. Clarke had seven years mining experience. The report found the two miners’ “task training and annual refresher training records to be up-to-date.”
“However,” the report went on to say, “the training did not specifically address all of the hazards associated with blasting.”
In addition to its inadequate training, the report found that Kensington’s management failed to provide Tagaban and Clarke with a blasting shelter. The two were also not removed from the blast area “to protect them from concussion and flying material.”
Mine safety investigators reported that, following Tagaban’s death, Kensington’s management “established new policies and procedures for persons working around blasting areas and trained all persons regarding these new policies and procedures. Additionally, management provided additional training regarding work place examinations to all miners.”
Kensington’s new safety procedures were in response to Tagaban’s death and also part of ongoing safety improvements, said Jan Trigg, manager of community relations and government affairs for the mine.
“First off, nothing is more important to us than the safety of our workers,” Trigg said. The mine continues to evolve its safety practices, she said.
Trigg said Kensington has modified its blasting procedures to provide designated areas for worker safety.
Kensington sent a letter to MSHA through Washington D.C.-based law firm Patton Boggs to express the mine’s disagreement with administration’s conclusions, Trigg said. The letter is dated Feb. 16.
In the letter, Kensington said MSHA’s report contained “critical factual errors.” It disputes the administration’s claims the bore hole intersected the blast pattern and that Tagaban and Clarke did not adequately inspect their surroundings before the blast.
The letter quotes Clarke, “We both checked our surroundings for loose holes,” he said. The letter said Clarke’s statement indicated that the bore hole was covered by material.
“I’ve replayed it in my head a million times and I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” Clarke was quoted in the letter.
Kensington is contesting MSHA’s citations. The case is still under review by MSHA, Trigg said.
Trigg said Kensington is attempting to avoid a repeat of the circumstances leading to Tagaban’s death by intensifying training programs to help workers to identify hazards during examinations — hazards like the existing bore hole that led to September’s fatality.
These changes are in response to Tagaban’s death, Trigg said. However, Trigg said, Kensington believes it was in full compliance with MSHA rules prior to the fatal blast.
MSHA report cites 2 root factors
A report issued by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration listed two root causes for the blast that resulted in the death of miner Joseph Tagaban.
• Root cause one: Management’s policies and procedures were inadequate and failed to ensure that persons weretrained to be out of the blast area or in a location that would protect them from concussion, flying material, or gases.
• Corrective action: Management implemented new policies and procedures for blasting that removes all persons fromthe blast area. Management has designated a safe zone in an area where there are not any diamond drill core holes and a significant distance away from any active blast areas. A centralized blasting initiation system has been installed to allow the initiation of blasts from the designated safe zone.
• Root cause two: Management failed to ensure that persons were trained to conduct adequate workplace examinations to identify hazards.
• Corrective action: Management provided additional training regarding workplace examinations to all miners. The training included conducting adequate examinations to check for hazards or to identify diamond drill holes prior to initiating a blast, ventilation, and ground control.
Source: U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. To read the full report, visit 1.usa.gov/wkyLMR.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at email@example.com.