Safety Alert

Safety at the face of large headings


  • Mine Owners (Coal & Miscellaneous)
  • Mine Managers (Coal & Miscellaneous)
  • Mine Unions
  • Inspectors

Safety Circular

Dear Sir

In a large mechanised development heading, supported by arches set in a whole arch manner and supplemented with a pattern of roofbolts, a contract development workman was fatally injured after being struck by a large piece of coal that fell from faulted ground at the coal face.

A MK III Dosco roadhead machine was used to win the roadway and a Gopher type drilling machine was used to install a pattern of seven roofbolts immediately in front of the last permanent support. The drilling machine was operated from a platform on the roadhead machine. At the beginning of the shift the arch had been set by the previous shift and the roofbolting was to complete, a second arch was set and bolted and a third arch had been set and the roofbolting in front of the crown was being completed.

The last roof bolt had been set and as the drilling machine was being recovered from the platform it fell from the operator's grasp between the machine apron and the face. The drilling machine operator held onto the machine body and a colleague went to assist and lift the machine back onto the platform. As he lifted the machine up a large piece of coal slipped from a fault in the face and pinned him against the machine apron. He tragically lost his life from the injuries he sustained.

The manager's support rules showed the use of face sprags during the drilling operation. There were no sprags set at the time of the accident.

Provisional recommendations :-

  1. The manager's support rules must be complied with at all times.
  2. The awareness of hazards and importance of safe personal positioning must continue to be emphasised.

During early 2002 HM Inspectorate of Mines will carry out a review of current best practice in ensuring safety at the face of large passively supported headings. The review will invite participation from all sides of the mining industry and an interim report will be produced by May 2002.

Yours sincerely

S P Wing
HM Principal District Inspector of Mines

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